3D printing and healthcare are coming together in unprecedented ways as advanced manufacturing technologies allow for patient-specific medical treatment to the benefit of patient, medical provider — and of course the businesses providing the technology. Germany-based EOS is well known as a provider of high-quality 3D printing solutions including industrial machines set to take on applications from bicycle parts to fine jewelry, as well as customized medical implants for human and animal alike. Companies around the world are demonstrating a commitment to EOS technologies through major investments in the machines as the company’s expanding offerings highlight versatile materials and a company-backed vision for strength in additive manufacturing. The company’s operations are expanding as well as EOS targets North America as a major growth market.
As ever, the road to success in business is reliant upon the team at work, and EOS North America has been making every effort to bring in great minds. We’ve been keeping up with EOS North America as the busy and well-credentialed team have been working at the fore of EOS’ efforts on this continent. Many of these efforts target the medical market, which offers major opportunity for the business.
Laura Gilmour, Global Medical Business Development Manager, brings a strong background in high-tech medical fields and experience in engineering and regulation to her work at EOS North America. We’ll be hearing more from her in our upcoming Additive Manufacturing Strategies summit hosted with SmarTech Markets Publishing, as we continue to delve into the intricacies of business and investment opportunities impacted by additive manufacturing. She has also been kind enough to share her story with us today as we continue to feature the dedicated work of leading women working in 3D printing today and hear about more opportunities for women to lead discussions on technology and healthcare. In this exclusive interview, Gilmour shares her thoughts on additive manufacturing for serial production of medical devices, getting into the 3D printing industry, role models, and regulation.What inspired you to work in this field?
“My interest in this field is tied to the reason behind why I studied biomedical engineering. My goal is to enable healthcare professionals to create a better quality of life for their patients and move the practice of medicine forward using the principles of biomedical engineering. I find additive manufacturing particularly interesting for healthcare because of its ability to provide more cost effective customized solutions.
I first encountered 3D printing when I was working for Smith and Nephew Orthopedics. Interacting with the technology demonstrated the new frontiers that designing for additive manufacturing could bring medical devices. The opportunity additive manufacturing has to advance industries is immense and working with customers at EOS excites me because together, we work to unlock the potential additive manufacturing has for the medical industry.”
“Though orthopedics was an early adopter of the technology, it’s still very new and the technology is doing more and more for patients and surgeons alike. The greatest potential it has from my perspective is making patient-specific implants and other ‘custom serial production’ applications — that’s where the technology really does shine.
Different patient populations around the world require different parameters for surgical equipment and medical implants. With additive manufacturing, computer-aided designs that are patient-specific can come to life. One exciting application I know of happened when a professional rock climber experienced a complex fracture in his ankle that couldn’t be repaired. Through medical scans, an exact replica of the climber’s ankle was reconstructed in a program that communicated a specific design to the AM machine. AM technology was able to create a part that closely matched his anatomy and once implanted, the climber’s recovery was quick because he had a more specific joint replacement rather than an ankle fusion or trauma plates which may not have allowed him to return to climbing. This story reminds me that at the end of the day, it’s a patent’s quality of life we have a chance to impact by enabling the medical community.
Beyond patient specificity, AM makes reaching greater complexity in surgical equipment design achievable. For instance, robotic surgery is incredibly complex and some applications have been overlooked because equipment designs were not achievable due to limitations of traditional manufacturing. Moreover, robotic surgery helps surgeons do routine procedures the same way every time and additive makes repeated builds of precise, exact parts possible. Whether it’s building complex lattice structures or making tiny parts that can operate within the confines of invasive procedures, AM makes manufacturing the unimaginable possible.”
What female leaders do you admire?
What about your background — education or work experience — positioned you to advance in the additive manufacturing industry?
“I will mention three but I could probably provide several more because I’ve been surrounded by many inspiring women in my career — too many to mention all of them here; each has been impactful to me.
First is a familiar one in Sheryl Sandberg. Her leadership in Silicon Valley and broader role in technology is one that all women like myself can look up to. I aspire to follow her example of understanding what is needed to push through to be a leader in an industry that hasn’t historically favored women. One thing I admire most of all about her is that she does this from a truly authentic place and doesn’t cut corners when it comes to using her own story to inspire others.
Second is Luanne Pendy the senior vice president of global quality at Medtronic. As one of three women on the executive committee at Medtronic, she’s championed efforts to foster diversity and inclusion while maintaining the end-to-end quality the industry requires. As was mentioned in a recent interview given by Luanne, she has taken additional actions within the Medtronic Women’s Network to improve retention of mothers in leadership, which I also think is important. She knows there are not many female engineers, particularly in upper management , and people like Luanne are stalwarts in our industry that encourage more and more women to get into engineering around the world.
On a more personal note, I would have to mention my grandmother, Mary Picking. She is obviously not a well-known leader, but is especially inspiring to my family’s story because she left her home in South Carolina at the age of 18 and moved to Delaware to study nursing. She became a young single mother after my grandfather died suddenly at a time when women couldn’t easily obtain loans, credit cards, etc. without their husbands; which is a fact I recently learned from my mother. I credit some of my tenacity to my grandmother’s influence in my life.”
“First and foremost, is my training as an engineer, a training deeply rooted in my curiosity about new possibilities but grounded in critical thinking. These traits are important in a field like this that is rapidly changing because critical thinking and curiosity help to find new horizons and make them happen within the bounds of available technology.
I’d also say that my experience at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had a real tangible impact to what AM does for the industry today. When I was at the FDA, people were just starting to apply AM in device manufacturing. We were asked to approve these devices and since I was the only person who had solid experience with AM, I played a larger role in building the understanding and infrastructure the FDA needed to approve those types of devices. Before I left, I co-founded the FDA’s additive manufacturing working group, a group that still exists today to guide the testing for medical devices and equipment made with the technology.”
What has your background working for the FDA done to inform how you work within the AM industry for medical applications?
What do you hope to accomplish in the next year and next five years (at EOS or personally)?
“I think the most important thing working for the FDA did was show me what it’s like working inside the regulatory environment. Some companies see working with the FDA as cumbersome, confusing and tougher than it has to be. However, my time with the organization helped me understand the ‘why’ behind the FDA’s questions. That’s the type of knowledge I bring to EOS customers as I help alleviate concerns and work to set up the right backup testing to get them through the regulatory process.”
“Most in our industry wait for customers to do the fact-finding and I believe that needs to change. In the next five years, I want to see more AM technology providers take on that charge and become the catalyst to bring this technology forward. At EOS, I’d like to expand to have more engineers with medical background in North America. I was the first hired here and the team must grow if EOS can step up to the task I know we can.
I want to build EOS’ brand and make it the trusted resource for medical device production. We’re the company that is best positioned to make people believe in AM because we have some of the most experienced engineers in the field. The medical manufacturing industry is one that puts immense attention to quality and we do the same at EOS. We bring our advanced process monitoring systems, materials science and machines together to ensure the highest quality is achieved for each build we and our customers produce.
Outside of what I do at EOS, I’m an ultramarathon runner and within the next year, I hope to run a 50 mile trail race.”
How do you feel women are represented in the additive manufacturing industry?
What are you doing and what can others do to advance female representation in the AM industry?
“This series has shown that there are more women in the industry than I thought originally. It feels as though there is a higher percentage in additive manufacturing than other emerging technology companies. At EOS, we are working to continue that trend within our own walls.
I was actually recently promoted to Global Medical Business Development Manager. In this global role I will have the opportunity to shape the future of EOS in the medical device business. I think executive leadership within EOS sees the value of a diverse leadership cohort within emerging technology like additive manufacturing. Furthermore, we’re seeing a few women within our company looking to come to EOS North America from our headquarters in Germany to make a difference. Maryna Ienina is one woman who comes to mind — she’s an application engineer originally from the Ukraine who trained in both Korea and the US prior to joining EOS. She currently leads initiatives that invite girls to experience the vast opportunities in the traditional and nontraditional STEM fields.”
“I believe the real difference is going to be made at the local level. Companies must work within their local communities to advance women at an early age and at the grassroots level. Recently, EOS worked with the Girl Scouts in Central Texas to introduce girls to AM technology by putting together prosthetic limbs that were printed on our machines. Previously, as an R&D manager at Medtronic, I worked with the corporate-sponsored Society of Women Engineers group in Memphis to bring engineering to different demographics that may not be exposed to the field as a fun, critical thinking, and problem-solving discipline by supporting school lunchtime STEM programs.
I strongly believe this is important because I was introduced to engineering at a young age through my father, who was an aerospace engineer, and I’m not sure I would have chosen this field if I wasn’t exposed to it in my youth.”
Where do you see the 3D printing industry going for medical applications and what needs to happen to get there?
“First, many people don’t realize there are implantable medical devices being manufactured using serial production additive manufacturing today. The FDA released information in 2015 that over 85 devices have regulatory clearance in the US and that number will only increase.
In my opinion, the possibilities of further innovation are endless but I’ll share three opportunities AM has that are top of mind today:
- Creating a point of care application with additive manufacturing
- Using the freedom of supply chain to give isolated communities access to more advanced medical care
- Using AM technology for cardiovascular applications
Point of care applications are one of many holy grails within the medical industry. Imagine being able to go to any hospital and have whatever ailment you had treated on the spot. We’re a long way away from that at the moment but it’s possible if focus stays on material advancements and laser sintering technology continues to improve.
Right now, only advanced and academic institutions have access to additive manufacturing machines and the main hurdle to getting them to community hospitals is cost. Costs are slowly coming down but we’re still pretty far off from AM machines being a justifiable expense for remote hospitals that could use the technology for rare, more specialized cases and procedures.
Cardiovascular applications like valve replacement are currently in research and development. We can take incredible imagery and medical scans of an individual’s cardiac system but when it comes to creating interventions, surgeons are stuck using standardized tools rather than customized ones. 3D printing is a new tool that is advancing how we image, plan, and carry out cardiovascular interventions to treat congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, and structural heart disease.
Overall, I’m excited to see what all of my innovative customers come up with next, and very interested to see how additive manufacturing shapes healthcare worldwide in the coming years.”
As she continues to share her expertise and experience in 3D printing and the healthcare business, Gilmour will be speaking in January at our Additive Manufacturing Strategies summit alongside a growing agenda of leading speakers. We look forward to hearing more of her thoughts on the industry and its potential for growth as additive manufacturing continues to be adopted in the medical sector.
EOS will additionally be at formnext in Frankfurt next month, where I look forward to catching up with the team again in person. The company will be introducing a promising 3D printing system engineered for mass production on the first day of the show, Tuesday 13 November. You can find EOS at hall 3.1, booth G50.
If you are interested in sharing your story, or know a woman we should get in touch with for this series, please reach out any time. Send us an email or connect on Twitter. We’re looking forward to sharing more stories about women in 3D printing. Find all the features in this series here.
We are also featuring educators focusing on training and teaching 3D printing skills; see all these features here.
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