Our recent inaugural Additive Manufacturing Strategies summit, hosted with SmarTech Markets Publishing, brought together experts in medical and dental 3D printing alongside legal and business leaders to share thoughts on the future of additive manufacturing in human healthcare. The event, rich in expertise, filled two days with insightful presentations and conversations in Washington, D.C., allowing for a unique opportunity to network and learn from leading minds in technology and regulation. When we initially announced the summit back in September, one of the first names added to the agenda was one familiar throughout the legal and 3D printing fields: Finnegan Partner John Hornick.
Hornick, who has been generous with his expertise in sharing his thoughts with us through previous interviews as well as thoughtful articles, has built up a strong background in intellectual property (IP) as it impacts the business of 3D printing. As an IP lawyer and highly regarded author and speaker, Hornick has a well-established reputation as a thought leader; it was a pleasure to finally meet him face-to-face during the AMS summit last week. At the summit, Hornick spoke on a panel entitled “The Future of 3D Printing in Medical Markets” and moderated one called “Additive Medicine and Dentistry: Investment Industry and VC Perspective.” During these presenstations and in subsequent conversation, Hornick brought to the table a wealth of ideas regarding the future of 3D printing, as well as the customization and democratization of design and manufacturing allowed for through this advanced technology.
To more directly share his thoughts, I followed up with him this week to gain his perspective on industry events, design, business, and more; the interview in full follows.
What were your overall impressions of the agenda for the Additive Manufacturing Strategies summit?
“This was one of the best of the many conferences I have attended on 3D printing, partly because it focused not just on a particular topic (healthcare), but also because it was focused within that field (medicine and dentistry), partly because it focused mainly on use cases, and partly because of the substance provided by the speakers.”
What value do you place on events such as this, geared toward a particular aspect of the 3D printing industry?
“There is a place for two basic types of 3D printing conferences. One type is general, which introduces 3D printing to people who know little or nothing about it. The other is conferences of this type, which provide forums for people who are using 3D printing to share their work and their vision with others in their field. There will probably be a place for the first type for the near future, but we will probably see more and more of the second type, as industries adopt and develop this technology and its uses.”
Can you please share your thoughts on the place of biomimicry in 3D printing / DfAM?
“Speaking of sharing visions, I spoke at this conference partly about what I see as the growing use of biomimicry in product design and in 3D printing and 3D bioprinting, not just for medical devices, but also for parts and products outside of healthcare. Airbus’s Light Rider motorcycle, which has a topologically optimized frame, is a good example of biomimicry design today. It looks more like Mother Nature designed it, rather than a human. As designers learn how to design for 3D printing, we will see more and more biomimetic designs, for the efficiencies that biomimicry offers. In time, we will also see biomimicry printers or fabricators, which combine 3D printing and 3D bioprinting, and inorganic, organic, and digital materials to make biomechanical parts and products for the human body and for products that have no relation to healthcare. Examples may be biomechanical substitute organs, which improve on Mother Nature’s design and are more suited to the human lifestyle and increasing longevity; infant cranial helmets, which grow with the child; and body armor, which is essentially a living, self-healing shell that mimics Mother Nature’s armor designs.”
“I talk a lot about this in my book, 3D Printing Will Rock the World. We are only at the very primitive start of what 3D printing and 3D bioprinting will be able to do. When you compare traditional product and parts designs to current examples of topologically optimized designs, you catch a glimpse of what is possible, not just in the long term (in which maybe everything is possible), but even in the near future (say, 10 years). Combine topological and structural optimization, 3D printing, 3D bioprinting, organic, inorganic, and digital materials, and you have a recipe for helping humans not to advance beyond nature, but to design and build like Mother Nature herself.”
What legal implications are currently at the forefront of concern for medical/dental 3D printing, and what areas do you expect to come to the fore in the near-term future? Longer-term?
“The current main concern is protection, which has two types. One is protecting technology with IP rights, which could mean utility patents, design patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and trademarks. The other is protecting product and parts designs and their digital thread from being stolen, copied, hacked, changed, corrupted, or used, without the IP owner’s permission. IP attorneys, like my firm, Finnegan, handle the former. There are also many companies developing solutions for the latter. For the latter, I talk in my book about the possible use of botanical DNA marking to mark and identify so-called ‘genuine’ products. More recently, I have started to see blockchain technology as maybe the best solution for securing part and products designs and, perhaps more importantly, the underlying digital thread.”
How are customization and democratization made possible by 3D printing impacting medical care?
“Some of the inherent strengths of 3D printing, customization, complexity, and one-of-a-kind designs, are perfect for medical care. If you need an implant, 3D printing can give it to you, customized to your body. The prices of such parts are high now, but prices will drop, partly as technology advances and becomes commoditized, and partly because of democratization. 3D printing allows small companies to disrupt the Big Dogs, to regionalize manufacturing and reshape supply chains, and even for customers (hospitals, doctors, and dentists) to become the manufacturers of the parts they need.”
What are your thoughts on current approaches to regulation in medical 3D printing?
“The FDA is being proactive in recognizing the benefits of 3D printing, and that it would be better to be on than under that freight train. They must be commended for their efforts. But the process is too slow and inefficient and patients in need, need the right to try.”
Did you have any major takeaways from the AMS summit and/or did any presentations or conversations lead you to think differently about any aspects of the industry/technology?
“I saw many great use cases and the potential for many others. We are on the cusp of seeing great things from 3D printing in medicine and dentistry.”
As events such as the AMS summit become more frequent additions to the 3D printing calendar, we look forward to keeping up with Hornick and other experts keeping their finger directly on the pulse of technological and business development.
Discuss events and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com, or share your comments below.[All AMS Strategies summit photos: Sarah Goehrke]