AMS Spring 2023

Biocompatible Materials for 3D Printed Prosthetics in Development from Essentium & Vorum

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Industrial 3D printing company Essentium, Inc. is announcing its continued collaboration with Canadian CAD/CAM solutions provider Vorum, which provides end-to-end digital solutions for the global orthotics & prosthetics (O&P) market. The two companies will work to improve biocompatible 3D printing for O&P applications by introducing a line of biocompatible AM materials. Texas-based Essentium itself is ISO 9001:2015 and ITAR certified, and its materials have been proven to safely interact with human skin, which is critical for O&P patients who have to wear devices that touch their skin for long periods of time. Together, Essentium and Vorum will work to print biocompatible O&P devices that are affordable, comfortable, lightweight, and safe.

“Developing comfortable, properly fitting orthotics and prosthetics is not just a science but also an art. Our biocompatible materials, combined with advanced 3D printing platforms, means O&P clinicians can use their skills to create O&P devices better, faster, and cheaper than before — which also means O&P devices that are more accessible, comfortable, and affordable for many more people around the world,” Blake Teipel, PhD, Essentium’s CEO, stated in a press release.

Part removal – PACF socket (Image courtesy of Essentium)

Essentium and Vorum first began working on 3D printed O&P solutions together in 2020, two years after Essentium 3D printed a super-strong prosthetic socket with partner BASF. The startup has long been interested in the O&P market; it even has a subsidiary brand called TriFusion Devices that’s focused on creating accessible prosthetics. Essentium’s materials can help create more advanced 3D printed O&P devices, like lightweight, comfortable prosthetic sockets that are strong and reliable.

As 3D printing platforms and software solutions continue to advance, O&P clinicians are better equipped to efficiently design and create bespoke, yet affordable devices for their patients, faster than traditional methods of manufacturing are capable of delivering. According to the SmarTech Analysis report on “Medical Devices 2021: Market Opportunities for 3D printed Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Audiology Devices,” 3D printing is truly beginning to disrupt the healthcare industry “in varying degrees across different fields,” due to its ability to offer more customization and digitization, thus leading to improved patient outcomes and cost reduction. As for the O&P sector specifically, 3D printing ” is on the cusp of moving out of the R&D lab and into full scale commercialisation,” as more O&P startups begin to scale up and partner with established names in the AM industry.

Image courtesy of Vorum

But, this ability to deliver functional, lightweight, comfortable O&P devices at a lower cost has majorly brought up the demand for biocompatible 3D printing materials with which to create the devices. As verified by certified, independent lab testing, the new materials that Essentium and Vorum are releasing meet ISO 10993 and US FDA guidance for intact skin surface devices. Additionally, the two companies co-commissioned a study, which they said prove that Essentium’s TPU 74D, PET-CF, PCTG, and PA-CF materials are non-cytotoxic, non-contact sensitive, and non-irritant, which means that O&P clinicians can use them to print devices will come into contact with human skin long-term.

“Modern O&P devices are often designed with a more intimate fit than in the past, which means we need to consider how the patient’s skin might behave in direct contact with the final orthosis or prosthesis,” explained Angela Saunders, the CEO of Vorum. “We know the practitioners who work with our solutions need to be confident that they can provide the best possible result for their patients. Therefore, it’s imperative to have certified materials so that the 3D printed O&P devices work with the body, not against it.”

Image courtesy of Vorum

This continuing partnership combines Essentium’s biocompatible materials and High-Speed Extrusion (HSE) 3D printing platform with Vorum’s Canfit CAD software for O&P solutions and SurePath methodology, which offers O&P clinicians a solid approach for adopting and implementing 3D printing, in addition to training and support.

Despite the recent sting of the cancellation of its SPAC merger, Essentium is looking to the future and not the past. The startup is continuing to move forward with meaningful industry partnerships, first with blue laser developer NUBURU to developer copper 3D printing, and now with Vorum. I know we’re all curious to see what’s next for Essentium as it deals with the fallout of its IPO deal.

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