3D printing helps ease costs of blood recycling machines
New technology makes these life-saving devices cheaper and easier to prototype.
Life-saving blood transfusions are commonplace in hospitals throughout the world. Not only is there often a need for more donors and more donated blood to keep supplies at optimal levels, but transfusions can also face obstacles, such as patients who, for various reasons, refuse to use donor blood.
As a result, autotransfusion – a process by which blood lost during surgeries and other medical procedures gets recycled by a machine called a Hemosep and transferred back into the patient – is on the rise in the medical community.
The Hemosep itself, however, is costly, and because of the time it takes to produce the machine, there are not enough to go around. It's a problem that American-Israeli company Stratasys and British company Brightwake (Advancis Surgical) are determined to fix. Stratasys has become world-renowned for their work with 3D printing, so Brightwake called on them to manufacture models of several of the Hemosep's parts using their Stratasys Dimension 1200es 3D printer.
Brightwake's Hemosep device. (Photo: advancissurgical.com)
These 3D-printed parts, including the main filtration and cooling systems, have lowered the prototyping costs associated with Brightwake's Hemosep by a remarkable 96 percent. While they're not using these parts in commercially available Hemosep devices, they are being used extensively to put them to the test in the field. When the Hemosep eventually comes to market, it will be produced from durable metal.
"Brightwake is constantly working on new versions of Hemosep to increase its adaptability – for example, a version that can be used on children – as well as other new products," Brightwake managing director Steve Cotton told DesignNews.com. "Previously, Brightwake was having to send designs for prototype components elsewhere, to have them produced. Each one took several weeks, cost £1,000 ($1681), and put the company’s intellectual property at risk. Having the capacity to do its own 3D printing has solved all these issues. Prototypes can now be produced literally overnight."
From shoes and robots to toys and, now, life-saving devices, 3D printing is everywhere. It's only a matter of time before other medical applications are found and 3D printing saves even more companies untold amounts of money. Whether or not these massive savings in the prototyping stage will translate to savings for the consumer remains to be seen.
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