Bionic Human Tells the Story of Additive Manufacturing

One of three major displays in this year’s Emerging Technology Center (ETC), hosted by AMT–The Association For Manufacturing Technology, is the additive bionic human.

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One of three major displays in this year’s Emerging Technology Center (ETC), hosted by AMT–The Association For Manufacturing Technology, is the additive bionic human. Developed in conjunction with EOS of North America (Novi, Michigan), this display demonstrates the use of additive manufacturing in the medical industry.

The additive bionic human features a number of additively manufactured medical implants and prosthetics, including cranial implants, tracheal implants, dental implants, a rib cage, leg prosthesis, joints and hands. Additionally, the display uses touchscreen technology to tell the story of what’s made possible through the use of additive manufacturing from three points of view: that of the patient, the medical science behind the part and the 3D technology being used to create the part.

EOS works with its customers to create parts using a laser-sintering process that produces the parts in a layer-by-layer fashion. The company creates implants that are available in general sizing as well as patient-specific parts depending on specific needs.

According to Laura Gilmour, medical account manager for EOS, the ability to manufacture patient-specific parts in an economical and widely accessible fashion is a significant advantage of using additive manufacturing in the medical industry. Such parts are built using 3D CAD data and are tailored to the patient’s individual anatomy. The use of patient-specific parts can cut down on time spent both in surgery and in recovery, improving the patient’s overall quality of life. In regards to the application of AM technology, innovation is primarily pushed by the customer, Gilmour says.

“Generally, product development engineers, especially folks that have been in the industry for a long time, have been trained that they have to follow a tool path; they have different restrictions on how they can design and how they can build something,” she says. “With additive manufacturing, it really takes away some of those restrictions, so it’s extremely interesting to see a product development engineer or a designer be able to open up their imagination and the box of the tools that they can use to create something different and very innovative. And so, being pushed by our customers, by their innovations and by the innate partnerships that we have with them is really where EOS has pushed the envelope as well.”

EOS uses a variety of biocompatible materials, depending on the application of the part. Medical devices must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration before they can be used in the human body, however, the devices carry the same considerations as those made with traditional manufacturing. According to Gilmour, this just means that the only restrictions on the engineers are what they can build; their innovation is no longer restricted within the confines of a tool path. It’s that spirit of innovation that is a key motivator behind the additive bionic human display. The display tells the story of innovation made possible through additive manufacturing.

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