Technological innovations are happening at a more rapid pace than ever. Remember when no one used to have a smartphone?
Well technology also so happens to be developing rapidly in the medical sector. At Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, we recently acquired the Dimension 3D printer, manufactured by Stratasys.
How Does the Dimension 3D Printer Work?
The 3D printer uses a process called “fused deposition modeling.” During this process, it produces strong plastic models layer by layer based on computer files it receives. The printer can create models up to an 8” x 8” x 12” size.
Each layer of plastic, which is initially a partial liquid, is laid down and fused to the previous layer. A material that serves as scaffolding is also laid down within each layer to give structural support. Finally, when this process is complete, the plastic model soaks in a tank with a solution that dissolves the scaffold away.
What Does this Mean for TSRHC Patients?
In a nutshell, it means better, faster service. Surgeons find these models invaluable for studying their patients prior to surgery. They can learn almost the exact nature of the physical condition affecting their patient. Once they actually perform the procedure, the process runs smoother because they know precisely what to expect.
In the past, we also had to hire the process to an outside vendor. Of course, it took more time to have the model produced and shipped back. But now, the model is created immediately on site. In addition, we used to have to create working prototypes for end use products for designs from external fixation, halo traction, special prosthetic devices, to new spine implants using traditional machine shop tools. But, this 3D printer allows us to create the same products in just a few minutes, instead of performing days of work in a machine shop. If changes are needed for the design, they’re also much easier and cost much less time to implement.
“The printer also gives us the flexibility to create designs that would be difficult or impossible to create by a machine,” said Karen Standefer, TSRHC mechanical engineer.
It’s just one more step we’re taking to improve the quality of service and outcomes for all our patients.
**Special thanks to the Annie L. Stevens Fund of the Dallas Foundation for generously supporting the purchase of this valuable medical research equipment benefiting the patients and families of Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children.