Wednesday, November 30, 2011

3D Printing Saves Lives

Today’s blog is by Julie Reece, Z Corporation’s Director of Marketing Communications.

I recently came across yet another inspiring story about how researchers and students are continually innovating with 3D printing technology in pursuit of life-saving applications. This one comes from The University of California Berkeley where they are using 3D printing to accelerate the evolution of a new medical device that promises to deliver safe, non-invasive angiography.

Called X-space Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI), the technology will let doctors look inside the heart and brain without the dangers of radiation, iodine, guide wires or catheters, according to Patrick Goodwill, University of California Berkeley research associate and developer of both the theory and first X-space MPI scanner. The MPI scanner detects nanoparticles spotlighted by benign iron oxide tracers injected into the bloodstream.


Goodwill and a team of graduate engineering students in the Conolly Labratory use the ZPrinter® 150 to create parts for MPI scanner prototypes that can image small animals. These devices are precursors to human-scale scanners.

“Since we’re building the world’s first MPI scanners, we can’t just buy parts off the shelf,” said Goodwill. “We’re using the ZPrinter to manufacture parts such as transmit coils, receive coils, heated animal beds and even custom components for delivering animal anesthesia. Every scanner we’ve built has incorporated at least two or three ZPrinted parts.”

Graduate Students Print Parts Every Day for Magnetic Particle Imaging Scanner Prototypes, Saving Weeks of Waiting and Thousands of Dollars

Goodwill purchased the ZPrinter after trying Dimension 3D printers, which were expensive –costing up to $1,500 per part in materials – and time consuming, taking as much as 20 hours to make a single part. He found that the ZPrinter creates parts in half the time, at a fraction of the price, and even produces multiple parts in each build cycle. “We can build 30 parts for the price of one,” Goodwill said.

“ZPrinting is the fastest way we can create the parts we need to rapidly iterate our design so we can bring MPI to the general public sooner,” Goodwill said. “We train all our students on SolidWorks® CAD software and have them manufacture their own parts. Now, whenever we have an inspiration, we try it out with a real part. We never have to leave the lab.”

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