3D Printing Cuts Cost & Time in Autotransfusion Device Development
Kyle Maxey posted on April 16, 2014 | 19834 views

3D printing, medicine, blood, surgery, stratasysDuring any operation some blood loss is to be expected. However, when dealing with cardiac or other major surgeries a tremendous amount of blood can be involved. While blood banks and donor drives can resolve some of a surgical ward’s needs, sometimes a patient’s blood has to be saved to ensure a safe outcome. To help recover this blood engineers used 3D printing to develop an autotranfusion device that significantly reduces the amount of donor blood required during major operations.

Created by Brightwake and named the Hemosep, the new autotransfusion device recovers and filters blood lost during an operation. Consisting of a chemical sponge and a mechanical agitator that concentrates blood removed from a surgical site, the machine processes blood and then uses transfusion to return the vital fluid to its owner. According to Steven Cotton, Brightwake’s Director of R&D, this technology is of critical need: “In a climate of blood shortage, this recycling methodology has the potential to be a game-changer within the medical industry, saving the National Health Service millions."

While autotransfusion devices aren’t necessarily new, the Hemosep distinguishes itself by having been extensively prototyped using a Stratasys 1200es 3D printer. During its development, process engineers printed a number of the machine’s components including its main filtration and cooling systems.

With the ability to rapidly and accurately iterate their designs, Brightwake’s engineers were able to slash costs and development times by building iterations in-house. In fact, according to Brightwake, prototyping costs were reduced by 96%.

"3D printing has not only enabled us to cut our own costs, it has also been crucial in actually getting a functional device to clinical trials," added Cotton. "The ability to 3D print parts that look, feel and perform like the final product, on-the-fly, is the future of medical device manufacturing."

Given the fast paced and critical nature of the medical device industry, additive manufacturing prototyping is delivering solutions to product manufacturers that were impossible only a decade ago. As the technology gains wider acceptance across industry it could speed response to doctors’ needs while also reducing the cost of medical devices.

Who knows, maybe one day 3D printing will be the key to making medicine affordable!

Image Courtesy of Stratasys

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