EMDT_European Medical Device Technology

European Medical Device Technology, Summer 2015

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22 | Summer 2015 European Medical Device Technology emdt.co.uk manufacturing A s futuristic as additive manufactur- ing (AM) still sounds, it is already a reality in many areas of medtech. According to Mark Cotteleer, research director at Deloitte Services, medical technology is one of the leading industries leveraging the use of additive manufactur- ing, representing more than 16% of total market usage. While the use of AM is still restricted to prototyping in many companies, more and more manufacturers are starting to evaluate whether AM is a suitable produc- tion technique. Many experts think that a broad application of the technology in the medtech sector might change exist- ing supply chains. "Manufacturing could be decentralized from a few large sites to many sites - each in closer proximity to the customer or end user potentially reducing the cost of distribution. 3-D printing may also enable production of goods to order, reducing inventory and minimizing wastage," assumes Hilary Thomas, chief medical adviser at the con- sultancy KPMG.Currently, some compa- nies are deterred by the potentially higher production costs. While AM provides huge benefits when it comes to producing highly individual- ized products in low-quantities, it is con- sidered to be comparatively expensive for large-scale manufacturing. "This is true, but the economics are better than most people think. In our research, we find examples of AM being used to economi- cally produce simple plastic components with breakevens—against more traditional injection molding—above 100,000 units," Cotteleer explained. Reducing Manufacturing Steps Even if the costs of AM are higher in many cases, benefits derived from alter- ing supply chains, tooling and product design might help companies to actually save money. One example is the German centrifuge manufacturer Andreas Het- tich. When the company still worked with conventional production methods, it used machining or injection molding to create the components, which still needed to be assembled. "Because we can now produce entire modules, it eliminates the need to manufacture individual parts, " Jürgen Schnell, manager at Hettich, explains the advantages of AM. "We accomplished thus significantly shorter production Thomas Klein Making small batch manufacturing more feasible, Additive Manufacturing could have a huge impact on the supply chains of the medical device industry. How Additive Manufacturing Will Change Medtech Supply Chains Additive Manuctruring helps companies to reduce the number of manufacturing steps and tooling costs. Image Source: EOS

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