When a company has been around as long as Stryker, they’re obviously doing something right. The medical device manufacturing company has been in operation since 1946, when it was established as the Orthopedic Frame Company. (The company’s name changed to Stryker in 1964.) Stryker’s success has been largely due to their focus on innovation; particularly for medical companies, if you’re not keeping up with the latest and best technology, you’re not going to last very long. So it’s actually somewhat surprising that they’ve only relatively recently begun to utilize 3D printing, which has been responsible for some of the biggest medical developments in the last couple years.
Stryker has taken notice, though. Last year they added 3D printed tibial baseplates and patellas to their Triathlon Tritanium Knee System and Triathlon Tritanium Cone Augments, which are used in knee surgeries. Sales of the devices went up during the fourth quarter of 2015, and now Stryker is going all in: this year they will be launching a 3D printed spinal implant and building a 3D printing manufacturing facility expected to cost upwards of $400 million. It’s a significant amount of capital, but Stryker CEO Kevin Lobo expects it to be worth it in the long run.
“So, as an example, our revision business lagged, our market share lagged, our primary business, and knees by about five or six market share points,” he said. “So, even in a Stryker-friendly account, sometimes they would go to a competitor to do the revision procedure. Now that we have what we consider best-in-class revision cones, not only do we keep that business, that surgeon stays with Stryker, we gain that sales, but they now have something that they can go talk to a competitive surgeon about. So, I would say it’s not a huge contributor, but it’s an extra shot in the arm.”
While they are incorporating 3D printed elements into their existing products, they’re not planning to entirely replace their tried-and-true devices such as the Triathlon knee products. Instead, they’re focusing on using 3D printing to develop entirely new and innovative devices – at least for the next few years.
“The pipeline of innovative new geometries that can’t be made without 3-D printing is the area of focus,” added Lobo. “So, it’s not about trying to replace our products and drive down cost. Over time, 10 years from now, that could be the case, but in the near to midterm, it’s really focused on innovative new products.”
10 years from now, 3D printing may have entirely taken over the medical industry; it certainly seems on pace to do so. Although they’re only now starting to really explore 3D printing, Stryker hasn’t been lagging behind when it comes to innovative technology. Their Mako robot-assisted orthopedic surgery system is one of their biggest investments, which they acquired when they purchased Mako Surgical in 2013. Robotic surgery is way up there in terms of huge medical advancements today – and it often goes hand in hand with 3D technology.
Stryker hasn’t released any details on the planned 3D printing facility, but the company will be focusing on 3D printed titanium devices. Metal printing is still pricey compared to plastic, but titanium is a key material in a lot of 3D printed medical devices. According to Stryker, they have a “huge lineup of other divisions with ideas and prototypes to get into 3D printed titanium products.” Are you surprised to hear that Stryker is entering the 3D printing market? Discuss in the Stryker 3D Printing Facility forum over at 3DPB.com.