AMS 2020 Startup Competition: Simulation Software, 3D Printed Bone, Hospital Labs, & More


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I’m here in Boston, with the rest of the and SmarTech Analysis team, for our third annual Additive Manufacturing Strategies summit, titled “The Business of 3D Printing: Medicine, Dentistry and Metals.” A favorite part of the event is our Startup Competition, where seed-stage 3D printing startups focused on bioprinting, hardware, materials, or software can compete for the chance to win a $15,000 uncapped safe note from early stage venture fund Asimov Ventures.

Asimov’s own Tyler Benster explained the rules to audience – each of the five competing startups would have the chance to pitch their business for six minutes, and the judges would have just a few minutes to ask questions. The panel of judges consisted of Geoffrey Doyle, Director of Business Development for Jabil; Conrad Hollomon, Growth Director, North America, for Techstars; Tuan Tranpham, Principal for TranPham Insights; and Benster.

Mariam Mir, co-founder of startup AdditiveLab, told us about its metal AM simulation software. According to her slide, part build failure rates in metal AM often exceed 20% – not great for a global market worth roughly about $2.5 billion. AdditiveLab’s six co-founders have over 30 years worth of experience in the AM industry between them, not to mention over 50 years worth in simulation, and its business model is to develop and distribute its software.

Currently, the startup offers three products – Lite, Research, and Libraries – for different levels of simulation use. AdditiveLab offers several features that its competitors don’t, such as a single click solution, advanced Python API, and competitive prices. It set up a successful customer base in one year, won the formnext Startup Challenge in November, and is looking to gain more customers in the US.

Answering questions from the judges, Mir explained that the software simulates parts in their production processes, has a current total revenue of around $70k, and is focused on expanding its simulation solution for DED 3D printing.

Thomas Zumbrunn with CustomSurg, which is looking to improve patient outcomes and reduce the total cost of healthcare, immediately grabbed everyone’s attention by playing a short video clip that showed a man, who was perhaps rappelling, hitting the side of a cliff; there’s no way he walked away from that without several fractures. Zumbrunn said it all starts with a broken bone, but complex fractures have a high rate of re-operation, and the surgeries themselves are often inefficient.

“There is a clinical need for anatomic joint realignment,” he said.

Zumbrunn explained that the startup creates 3D models from CT scans, and then realigns the bone, using simulation, to the way it should look. Its “secret sauce” is using finite element analysis (FEA) simulation to see how the bone would perform in real activities, so surgeons can reduce the amount of hardware needed and improve stability.

CustomSurg, which also provides 3D printed bone models and a virtual surgical plan, is in the proof of concept phase, and working on a patent application related to its core process. When asked how the startup differs from its competitors, Zumbrunn said that the others are “focusing on low-hanging fruit,” such as CMF surgeries, that aren’t exposed to the same loads as the lower part of the body, like the hips and knees.

Co-founders Rakesh Lal and Dr. Albert Woo introduced IMPLANT3D Inc., which provides patient-specific surgical implants that are manufactured on-demand and on-site in the hospital. Lal, the CEO, explained that the biggest driver of implant costs is not R&D, but sales and distributions. The startup is focusing on custom cranial implants, because the process already has a clear regulatory path laid out.

IMPLANT3D’s Chief Medical Officer, facial trauma reconstruction effort Dr. Woo, said that the market for this type of implant is “well-developed,” and that the startup already has a customer waiting to use their product. Most commercial entities charge hospitals up to $15,000 per custom cranial implant, and IMPLANT3D wants to offer “practically the same implant” at a much lower cost.

“Hospitals are risk-averse,” Dr. Woo explained. “They don’t want to get involved in the manufacturing, they need people like us to shepherd them through. We have an extremely disruptive business model that should be extremely difficult to compete against.”

One judge asked how it would work, offering a lower price point by not having a sales force, and the pair replied that the 3D printing hospital lab would act as the sales force – those designing the implants would also be selling them.

“We print bone. That’s it,” said Casper Slots, the Chief Commercial Officer for Particle3D.

He explained that Particle3D does what it does because current treatments are suboptimal, with foreign materials that can cause infection and high complication rates. The startup, which is targeting the oral-maxillofacial market, uses powder particles from a natural bone mineral, suspended in a fatty acid matrix, to create its bioink; the acid is then burned off post-print. They’ve tested their proof of concept in mice and pigs, and the results show that the bioink is free from contaminants, mechanically strong, and supports the rapid formation of vascularized bone.

Slots said that the startup’s P3D bone is degradable, with bone-like porosity, and he is confident it will qualify for 510(k) clearance from the FDA. In response to a question from the judges, he said that Particle3D is hoping to make deals with larger companies, such as J&J, and use their existing sales forces to get its product into hospitals. He also told the judges that the startup has cheaper production, no synthetic materials, and not as much post-processing as other solutions, which should also equal shorter lead times.

Francis Dion, Executive Chairman of Shapeshift3D, introduced the room to the startup’s scan-fit-print automation software. He explained that the demand is high for custom-fitted wearables, because they are more comfortable and efficient, in addition to providing better performance. But, it takes a lot of time and money to fit these devices. Shapeshift3D has “essentially eliminated manual CAD labor,” which reduces cost and enables mass customization at scale.

The startup’s software has a “completely novel” approach, and offers, among other options, API as a service, recurring team licensing and SaaS, and specialized integration services. While it only launched six months ago, Shapeshift3D is the result of five years of hard work, and is a “perfect fit” for the industry, pun possibly intended. The startup completed its first patent filing in Q1 of 2020, and has already raised $400k, with more on the way, as it’s about to close a deal with a sporting goods company and has customers in the US and Canada.

One of the judges asked Dion what the startup’s biggest hurdle to success is, and he replied that its algorithms are 40 times faster than those of its competitors, who are using the “same old” marketing material. Shapeshift3D has already enjoyed five years of commercialization for a knee brace it created, and is now looking to build out its portfolio of applications, with possible options like wrist braces and helmets.

After conferring for about five minutes, the judges came back and announced that Particle3D was the winner of the startup competition, and Benster presented Slots with an oversized check, representing the prize of the $15,000 uncapped safe note from Asimov.

“We are extremely happy,” Slots told me when I caught up with him after the competition was over. “This is the first validation we actually have from the US. We are a Scandinavian company, and it’s hard to get recognized over here. Winning this competition is maybe the first step in the US.”

Stay tuned to as we continue to bring you the news from our third annual AMS Summit.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at or share your thoughts below.

[Photos: Sarah Saunders]

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