Although the medical device industry is already finding growing use for 3-D printing - prototyping and production of finished parts - there are still opportunities for improvement. In a Q&A with Ron Belknap, the president and CEO of ProtoCAM explained the most common 3-D printing mistakes, biggest opportunities and how the medical device industry can take the most out of the technology.
Ron Belknap advises that the most common similarity when things go poorly is lack of preparation: “When clients lack sufficient time, and insist on skipping right to part build, they increase the potential for failure and chance they’ll have to repeat the whole process. Ultimately, taking a very little extra bit of time up front can help guard against adding significant total time to project completion.” When it comes to challenges, ProtoCAM’s CEO stated that the biggest ones are when companies wait too long before asking for help with their 3-D printed parts.
Regarding opportunities, Ron Belknap said that the biggest leverage is the ability to create parts that would be otherwise impossible with conventional manufacturing processes. “For example, with additive manufacturing, internal passages can be built directly into parts without regard for tool paths, parting lines, assembly, and so forth. This can significantly reduce number of parts, potential points of failure, and manual processes required to create parts.” The president and CEO of ProtoCAM also stated that going over the budget is not something they see very often: 3-D printing “generally has a very high ROI once risk avoidance, duplication of effort, and expedited time to market are factored in.”
Ron Belknap is clearly an enthusiast when it comes to 3-D printing: “A high-precision 3-D printed model will quickly prove a design, or uncover needed design corrections. This allows engineers to spend time on fine-tuning a validated design and avoid potentially wasting time on fine details only to have to replicate the effort after remedying core structural issues. Prototyping early helps guard against such project setbacks, expedites turning the designs over to production, and ultimately increases profitability by speeding time to market.”