Interview PrinterPrezz CEO, Shri Shetty

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PrinterPrezz is a company that wants to accelerate the adoption of 3D printed medical devices. When I met CEO Shri Shetty at NAMIC I immediately knew I wanted to interview him. Increased adoption of metal and polymer 3D printed medical implants is one of the most significant opportunities in 3D printing. Megatrends such as longer living richer people, more obesity, more diabetes, more surgical sophistication in developing countries all came together at a point whereby one could see that the need for a wide range of medical device products was accelerating. 510(k) premarket clearances were coming in on many different of titanium implants while papers we were publishing at 3DPrint.com pointed to dozens more in the offing from cranial, to hip, to cervical, and many more. Yet, no one was specializing in bringing these devices to market. There were three dozen Thingiverse wannabe’s but not one startup addressed this huge and long term high margin market. Established firms such as Stryker were investing heavily, as is Materialise, but there was very little activity given the opportunity. So I was happy to hear of PrinterPrezz’s goals and efforts. I’m still skeptical that they can pull it off, because the challenge is a daunting one, but if they can the rewards will be vast. 

What is Printerprezz?

PrinterPrezz is an additive manufacturing (AM) company with a foundry ecosystem to develop medical devices from concept through to volume production. Our proprietary processes combine expertise in 3D printing, orthopaedics, semiconductor and nanotechnologies to bring more ideas for innovative medical devices to market faster.

How did you get started?

Two of our co-founders, Shri and Alexis, met at a medical conference where they were both speakers. Shri presented on the advantages of using metal AM for industrial applications, while Alexis’s presentation highlighted the value of bringing metal AM to the medical segment and the current void that existed. Following their talks, they got together and formed PrinterPrezz to address the growing need for an AM ecosystem targeted at the medical devices space.

Who are you looking to partner with?

We consider ourselves to be a foundry ecosystem, hence our partnerships are diverse, spanning both hardware and software companies. We are also working with select universities and hospitals and have established partnerships with the University of California. We believe this strategy will bring greater awareness of additive manufacturing and its advantages.

Why should I partner with you?

PrinterPrezz was started because there is a significant need for new and improved medical devices. A significant number of new ideas have no path to commercialization and if they do, it’s extremely time consuming and expensive. PrinterPrezz provides medical innovators an accelerated avenue to convert ideas into life-changing devices. Our ecosystem provides access to resources that are typically too far or too expensive and provide manufacturing entities a direct way to further understand the needs of the OR and patient.

What do you hope to achieve in the next five years?

PrinterPrezz’s ecosystem aims to solve challenges for various parts of the medical innovation value chain by providing prototyping, development, and manufacturing services to create life-enhancing medical devices. We consult with customers and accelerate innovation by utilizing a variety of 3D printing machines, 3D manipulation software, and 3D scanners as well as advanced medical manufacturing processes, and surgeon education programs. To facilitate this, we built and launched a manufacturing facility and innovation center in California. As we further educate leading healthcare centers in large population areas on the patient-benefits of thinking-AM and developing AM-based devices, our goal is to improve patient outcomes by accelerating the adoption of AM in the medical industry.

Why use metal 3D printing for orthopedic implants?

There are things that are simply not possible or incredibly cost-prohibitive to do using traditional manufacturing. Additive manufacturing allows the creation of complex structures that offer advantages for orthopaedics, by way of an entirely different method of building a device. For example, complex lattices on the surface or internally in a device contribute to its strength as well as osseointegration.

Besides the surface quality are there other advantages?

While 3D printing can deliver superior surface modulation, it also allows the use of complex 3D lattice structures that can be aimed to stimulate bone ingrowth and to mimic bone properties in order to avoid stress-shielding. Lattices also reduce weight and the amount of material that’s required to produce a device thereby helping to lower overall costs.

Do you believe in patient-specific implants?

Increased adoption of patient-matched implants will happen in time as AM costs come down and the global infrastructure solidifies. There needs to be greater awareness in the medical industry among surgeons and healthcare providers. This way, the 3D printing capabilities of the manufacturing industry will advance faster. Education and ecosystem collaboration are key to achieving patient-matched implants.

What advice would you give me if I wanted to manufacture using 3D printing?

The most important step is to learn about 3D printing, both in polymers and metals, and have a good understanding of what 3D printing can and cannot do. In this way, one will design products from an additive point of view. When designers have a 3D mindset from the beginning, products will be more advanced than simply converting a device already designed and manufactured in a traditional manner. Having the right partners with 3D printing, medical expertise and experience also matters.

What facilities do you have?

PrinterPrezz, headquartered in Fremont, CA, has expanded from 5,000 to 15,000 square feet in our first year of operation, and we have helped to foster collaboration between many local businesses who have become part of our vendor ecosystem.

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