A conversation with Gautam Gupta is all it takes to realize he is tuned in and two steps ahead where medical device manufacturing is concerned. An accomplished materials scientist and metallurgical engineer with a doctorate in biomedical engineering and an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, Gautam has contributed to the invention, development, and introduction of numerous anatomical products.

Far from exhausted by the pace of development, Gautam is exhilarated by it. In his current capacity as 3D Systems’ Vice President of Business Development, Healthcare, Gautam is central to the groups striving daily to push boundaries and expectations for additive technology in healthcare. This conversation offers a glimpse into the current state of additive manufacturing in medical device manufacturing and what’s in store for the not-so-distant future.

With over a decade of insight on the medical device market, how would you describe the industry?

The medical device industry is exceptionally dynamic. It has historically adopted cutting-edge technologies to manufacture implants and instruments, and in recent years that has meant the rapid adoption of 3D printing to broaden its potential. A vast number of new and innovative products have been introduced to the medical device market through 3D printing, and at an unprecedented rate due to the speed possible in transitioning from a digital file to a physical part.

Is there a trend in the medical devices developed with 3D printing?

There is perhaps an underlying theme. The industry itself is continuously moving towards implant and instrument designs that are specific to the patient anatomies and needs. A major benefit of this shift is an improvement in the clinical efficacy of the devices, which in turn can help to advance the standard of care for the patients. 3D printing is excellent for patient-specific devices and instruments and brings new capabilities to the surgeon to better address the complexities associated with extreme skeletal pathologies. The additive process removes a lot of the design constraints for device manufacturing, so a lot more is possible.

What benefits are passed on to the patient through a 3D printing workflow?

Overall, this technology helps more innovation see the light of day. By reducing the process footprint to manufacture innovative device designs, 3D printing is empowering smaller sized companies and start-ups to compete at the global stage with industry leaders.

How is the 3D printing industry responding to its adoption within medical device manufacturing?

Speaking on behalf of 3D Systems, we are working tirelessly to evolve our offerings and provide powerful solutions to both the device industry and surgeon community in the interest of facilitating better patient care and more affordable products. 3D printing is also enabling these solutions to be delivered to the OR in a shorter timeframe than what has typically been possible with traditional manufacturing methods. This becomes critically important in cases with extreme pathologies where early intervention can impact the duration and quality of a patient’s life.

Can you give an example?

Given the nature of the technology and our user base, there are a lot of restrictions on what can be shared in terms of specifics, but 3D Systems recently published a case study on our work with K2M, a spine solutions company. It’s an excellent example of the comprehensiveness of our offerings.

3D Systems takes an integrated approach to our software and hardware solutions to enable accuracy and productivity throughout medical device development and manufacturing. In the full case study we go into the details of how our healthcare team used our VSP® (Virtual Surgical Planning) software suite to design a compassionate use device for a highly complex spinal procedure. That device was then directly manufactured using one of our state-of-the-art metal 3D printers, a ProX® DMP 320. This is a case that had a direct impact on quality of life for a patient who was having trouble finding an adequate solution otherwise.

Read the full K2M case study for more information.