Duke Students Use 3D Metal Printer to Create Medical Devices


(Ken Gall) “I wanted to change what Duke
was capable of doing and part of that involved bringing a 3D printer to campus.” (Samantha Sheppard) “It’s an amazing opportunity
to have this tool here at Duke.” (Neal Simmons) “Virtually any shape that we
can draw on the computer can be translated into a real part and it can be translated
at a speed that is orders of magnitude faster than traditional methods.” (Sanford Morton) “It’s something that many
undergraduates may never get access to and I think it’s unique that Duke has this.” (Samantha Sheppard) “So there’s two senior
design groups working with the printer this semester. They’re both working in the medical field. So one is group is making the implants for
large bone defects and there’s another group making spinal cages for spinal fusion surgeries.” (Sanford Morton) “So its been really fun to
go meet with a doctor or surgeon and talk to them about the problems they’re facing,
how their devices are currently working, why that device needs to be improved, and then
be able to come in here and without any limitations really, create a geometry that satisfies the
needs that they have.” (Dr. Robert Isaacs) “One of the things we
do very commonly as surgeons is have to put in small cages into people’s spines which
can help bone grow in the direction you want it to. They’ve been working on a titanium printed
cage which is pretty common but the way they’re doing it is really unique giving it a special
surface and a lattice work inside to really minimize the amount of metal that is used
and in the process give it the ability for the body to incorporate it much better.” (Sanford Morton) “We’re able to thin the structure
out so that it images better on a CT scanner so that doctors can verify that there’s bone
growing right through this hole right here.” (Neal Simmons) “It’s a tool that we didn’t
have before that allows us to create much more complex and useful designs at a pace
that otherwise couldn’t be done.” (Ken Gall) “You would not be able to implant
these parts. They are not cleared through the FDA. But these are of the quality that you could
eventually implant into humans. So they are getting to work on a real problem
that has a real solution.” (Group discussion) “So I have a questionable
test about what you believe about the 3D printer. Would you implant these in yourself?” “I would much rather have a design that
is printed and optimized versus something that is just on the market.” (Ken Gall) “For the students to actually
be able to make real parts that match what the doctors want designed and then to actually
test those parts is something that you would rarely see at a university- all the way through
those levels.” (Dr. Robert Isaacs)”That collaboration, understanding
the clinical need and understanding what the capabilities of cutting edge science are and
adding the two together is going to be game changing.” (Sanford Morton) “I think traditionally it
would be extremely hard for someone like me to not only print on a printer like this and
create finalized products but then take it over to a medical center, meet with surgeons
and then perform CT scans and tomography scans of any sort on my device all within the same
day. That’s extremely unique and not necessarily
happening at many other institutions.”

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