AMS Spring 2023

New Biocompatible 3D Printing Resins Released by Formlabs

6K SmarTech

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Formlabs now has BioMed White Resin and BioMed Black Resin for its SLA printers. The two new materials are biocompatible and are squarely aimed at the surgical planning and medical device market.

These resins complement existing resins such as BioMed Clear and BioMed Amber and are USP Class VI certified. This means that they have been found not to have long-lasting effects on the body in terms of toxicity, skin reactions, and short-term use in and around the body.

Formlabs BioMed White is used for printing healthcare models

Formlabs BioMed White is used for printing healthcare models. Image courtesy of Formlabs.

Commenting on the resins, Formlabs Director, Medical Market Development, Gaurav Manchanda, said:

“3D printing is a critical technology for advancing precision healthcare. Formlabs enables providers and medical facilities to improve care with patient-specific models, surgical guides, custom medical devices, and more with a variety of resins and materials that are safe for patient use. By expanding this library with the new BioMed Black and White resins, providers, medical device manufacturers, and other facilities can advance innovation and adoption of 3D printing to benefit patients.”

Resins have always been problematic. First, many 3D printing resins are skin irritants or have photoinitiators in them that irritate the skin. Some resins cause long-term contact allergies and may be much more harmful if the part is touched in its liquid state. Finally, some resins are very toxic indeed. So this is a hopeful development but also a commercially interesting one.

It used to be that any company that developed a biocompatible resin would have a high chance of being acquired by 3D Systems. Now Formlabs is heating the competition in SLA by going industry-specific and upmarket. Its Pro printers are already used by a lot of designers to do things like making jewelry castings. But, the company also has an expanding dental printer and resin portfolio. This in and of itself carters to a vast market.

We are reaching a tipping point where a great many dentists and dental labs are thinking of going digital and buying 3D printers, obtaining integrated software-material-printer solutions, or working with services. Of all the markets we serve, thinking about 3D printing is the most advanced in the everyday practitioner in dental. Dentists, dental labs, and orthodontists are all thinking about going digital. Millions of molds, temporary inserts, and metal bridges have been made to date.

Formlabs BioMed White used for printing healthcare models.

Formlabs BioMed White is used for printing healthcare models. Image courtesy of Formlabs.

The offerings for dental are expanding, with companies such as 3D3 and Sprintray developing whole portfolios of dental solutions to compete with EnvisionTEC, Asiga, and DWS. Your doctor, on the other hand, is blissfully unaware of 3D printing. We’ve seen 3D printing labs in hospitals grow from a handful to over 150 worldwide over the last few years. But, there are currently no complete offerings for them to integrate all the necessary software, materials, and printers. Apart from 3D Systems’ Kumovis, there are precious few printers designed with your doctor or hospital in mind. If we just look at things like surgical guides and models for surgical planning, the market is considerable and expanding.

But no one is really tackling it. Formlabs has always had a very top-down controlled vision of its 3D printers, materials, and peripherals. An Apple style focus on excellence and control meant that the company has a path for its users which is restrictive and well laid out. This means that Formlabs 3D printers are still the easiest to use today. But, the insane growth in materials and players that we’ve seen in the chaotic and open material extrusion market is absent in SLA. Only now do we find newer SLA printer companies emerging at scale.

Due to its closed but well-working ecosystem, Formlabs can parley its current offerings relatively easily to industry-specific solutions. It seems that as it has done in dental, it now wants to expand into more healthcare applications. It already has the $12,000 3BL, which can be great for dental and medical, specifically the Form B+ for dental. These machines could be used much more widely in hospitals and doctors’ offices than they are today. Due to safety concerns, most hospitals currently use Material Extrusion 3D printers. But, highly accurate SLA prints would be excellent for surgical planning models and medical models for students and doctors to learn from. Indeed one could make very precise and relatively cheap rare pathology-specific medical models quite easily with the existing Formlabs printers.

With these new resin materials, Formlabs is betting on this market growth. And it also wishes to perhaps open a market in medical device prototyping and possibly in implantable surgical guides in the long run. So this would be a very high-value thing for them to do.

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