Earlier this year, we began a series reviewing some of the exciting technological advancements in the realm of Medical Devices: With 3D Printing, Medical Devices Are Cool Again, pt 1, Medical Devices Are Cool Again — Medical Devices 101, & Medical Devices Are Cool Again — Prototyping For The Future. Check out the article below, a continuation of the subject on 3-D Printing in the realm of medical devices, looking towards the future.
What Now? What Next?
3D printing is here to stay. Here are three things that will take all of the energy and all of the interest in medical devices we’re seeing, and harness it for optimal technological progress.
Standards, and standards bodies.
When one collaborating lab passes a schematic or calibration along to another, a common operating vocabulary is essential. Right now there are too many formats, and few technical standards. 3D prototyping looks a lot like the Wild West. This isn’t as acute a problem when research and development occurs exclusively within a single lab or team.
Still, from what I have seen, the most interesting stuff in terms of device innovation is the product of multi-site work comprising several expert teams, each of whom brings to the table a unique skill set. Device innovation is an interdisciplinary effort.
Open-sourced designs, configurations and software.
Standards in turn make possible another level of abstraction in. Each team’s intellectual property lies in what we prototype, not the mechanics of prototyping itself. What software entrepreneurs today consider de rigeur, device entrepreneurs have lusted after longer than we are likely to admit. We should not have to reinvent the wheel every time out.
Too many groups are focused on developing their own printers, substrates and everything in between. Out-of-the-box prototyping systems are seldom customized for the task at hand; that fact, however, doesn’t mandate a proprietary-first mentality.
Right now, most prototyping happens in a dirty, dust-flecked corner of existing labs, and facilities, such as they are, are spread all over the place. There are few convening points for innovators in the midst of prototyping and right now it’s a lonely path. Edison Nation Medical, a Charlotte-based organization, helps healthcare workers bring their medical device ideas to life by designing and prototyping ideas with high potential for commercialization, and they’re one great, outlying example to follow.
Similarly, the MidMichigan Innovation Center and the Cambridge Innovation Center have created collaborative environments for entrepreneurs to work in close proximity to peers and experts who provide advice for startups that need help along the way. What we’re doing at Medical Innovation Labs in collaboration with Prof. Joe Beaman at the University of Texas is another great example.