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Inside 3D Systems’ Littleton, CO facility

Yesterday in Littleton, Colorado, I had the opportunity to visit one of 3D Systems‘ three dedicated healthcare facilities, sitting down to learn more about the company’s end-to-end approach to solutions in the medical field as executives from the company presented their vision. There I additionally had the chance to spend time talking with those executives, and then touring the facility to see some of the medical 3D printing solutions in action in dedicated lab and office settings. While the company focuses its attention throughout several key verticals, healthcare represents a key and growing field of focus. The Littleton Healthcare Technology Center houses 70,000 square feet of dedicated healthcare solutions, and was opened just nine months ago.

Beginning with a revisiting of talk of some of the verticals he spoke of at IMTS back in September, CEO Vyomesh Joshi (VJ) noted that 3DS’ approach to healthcare reflects throughout this strategy:

“My view is that it starts with customers and customer segmentation,” he told us. “The way I think about healthcare is as kind of a blueprint about all these verticals. Now getting a much deeper understanding of how we take our approach segment by segment, use case by use case, I really do believe it requires this end-to-end approach. From digitization to design simulation to making, inspecting, and managing. I’ve said it before: We are at an inflection point.”

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A single Figure 4 module in operation in the 3DS lobby

The focus, as ever, is on taking additive manufacturing technology from prototyping to production. 3D Systems’ Figure 4 system is one approach to this objective, and a single module of it is on display at the front of this building; again, I lost time just watching the mesmerizing process in action as an anatomically correct hand rose from a green resin vat. While at IMTS and formnext the Figure 4 displays showcased multiple modules, watching a single vat in action is indeed also quite a sight to see. The system’s modularity allows for a customized approach to scale manufacturing.

VJ moved on to note that a key to 3DS’ current approach to the marketplace is in meeting customer needs.

“There are four customer needs we believe are key to really move from prototyping to production,” he said, naming:

  1. Productivity
  2. Part
  3. Durability
  4. Total cost of operations

Altogether, the tie-in to these four needs is to ensure that having the system is viable and worthwhile for any customers. VJ wants to make sure that customers can say, “Now I have the right kind of productivity I can get to take into production.” Furthermore, parts created must possess the right characteristics and full integrity, and be worth the part cost when taking into account the entire ecosystem, from capital investment to labor.

These primary needs needs are being met through focus in 3D Systems’ key verticals:

  • Aerospace & Defense
  • Automotive
  • Healthcare
  • Durable Goods

20161212_143748By noting in each of these cases, and for each customer, where they are in the maturity curve (with VJ noting, for instance, that GE is clearly at a different level of maturation than customers that are just beginning to experiment with these new technologies), customized focus can be provided in the solutions developed. The verticals also benefit from some level of interconnectivity, as VJ noted, “Once you do healthcare, I believe you can do aerospace,” referencing the necessity for additively manufactured components that can stand up to critical scrutiny. The complete ecosystem from 3D Systems is by design an end-to-end solution, which places a high value on software alongisde materials and hardware.

“We are not just a metal printer or a plastic printer company,” VJ stated. “We are a solutions company.”

In Q3 2016, 3DS reported healthcare revenues of $42 million, noting that there is a “tremendous market opportunity” here. With a powerful customer base encompassing such major names as K2M, Stryker, Zimmer Biomet, Align Technology, Conformis, Motefiore, Sirona, Widex, and the Mayo Clinic, the company does have some clout behind its claims. Alongside these big names are the names within 3DS itself, as VJ had placed a significant emphasis early in his tenure as CEO on getting his dream team in place.

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3D Systems’ Littleton facility [Photo provided by 3D Systems]

“We have great people who are really going to make this thing happen,” VJ said of growth in healthcare solutions. “I’m done organizing, and now focused on execution.”

Two members of this dream team present throughout yesterday’s event and providing insights into 3DS’ healthcare solutions were Kevin McAlea, EVP, GM, Metals and Healthcare; and Katie Weimer, VP, Medical Devices, Healthcare. McAlea took the time to present an introduction of some of the company’s business approaches to healthcare as well as touch on several key use cases, while Weimer would lead the group on a tour around the Littleton facility so we could see first-hand the office full of biomedical engineers, dedicated technology labs, and working looks at the business on a typical day; stay tuned for more details from both of these individuals in the near future.

3D Systems now operates three dedicated healthcare facilities:

Denver, US

  • ISO 13485 facility (Class 1, 2, 3 devices)
  • Center of excellence for surgical planning

Tel Aviv, Israel

  • Medical simulator design & manufacturing
  • Center of excellence for simulation & VR

Leuven, Belgium

  • ISO 13485 facility
  • Developed metal printer there, suitable for medical device mfg
  • Center of excellence for metal 3D printing

We will continue to dig further into the details presented at Littleton, sharing more information in the coming days regarding some of the services in development, as well as looks at successes in case studies such as those of a national sled hockey champion and the Jaw in a Day process, among many others. Stay tuned for an exclusive interview with VJ and Kevin McAlea, as well as a look inside 3DS’ healthcare facility operations and how they incorporate 3D simulation technology to encourage the best care for patients around the world.

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I had the opportunity to use 3D simulation and haptic technology to test out a laparoscopic surgery; I do not foresee a career change, and will leave this one to those professionals.

[All photos taken on-site by Sarah Goehrke for 3DPrint.com unless otherwise noted]





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