As professionals and students across the medical field increasingly turn to 3D printers for more advanced, true-to-life training, the production of accurate silicone models has become integral. 3D printed bones, organs, and other body parts are key for preparing doctors for complex surgical procedures, as well as providing an important step in surgical students’ education. In these high-stakes contexts, precision and verisimilitude of the models are of utmost importance, contributing in large part to the rise of 3D printed silicone, a material which can mimic the human anatomy relatively closely.
Now, one 3D printing solutions company is looking to take another step forward in the growing market of 3D printed silicone models. You may remember San Draw for its FAM 3D printing system, an innovative new platform first released last year. FAM, which stands for Full-color, Adjustable hardness, Multi-material 3D printing, is the brainchild of Stanford University graduates Gary Chang and Michael Lu. As an advanced additive manufacturing system designed to create true-to-life multi-color silicone models, FAM has so far proved quite lucrative, with clients that include top Taiwanese hospitals National Cheng Kung University Hospital and Far Eastern Memorial Hospital.
▲An infant airway trainer
Following the success of FAM, San Draw has unveiled several key upgrades to their 3D printing system, announced just last week. First up is a new solution engineered for 3D printing silicone airways, one of the company’s most popular medical models. As told to 3Ders by company co-founder Michael Lu, the idea first presented itself during San Draw’s sales manager’s hospital visits. “Our sales manager Jim did his regular sales visits to hospitals,” Lu said, when “many simulation specialists asked him to customize the airway for their intubation trainer or airway management trainer (AMT).”
The request was born out of two commonly seen problems with AMTs: a lack of user-friendliness and anatomic accuracy in airway designs, compounded by larger manufacturers being unable to offer custom product optimization. Additionally, when the airway portion of the AMT is out of production, clients are typically unable to extend the life of their overall AMT system.
San Draw’s solution takes these problems as its starting point, said Lu. “We design the CAD file from scratch to meet customers' requirements, and manufacture it with our FAM silicone 3D printer,” he explainedl This bespoke process helps San Draw’s clients achieve more realistic, user-friendly, durable, and affordable airways, Lu added.
A 3D printed silicone adult airway
Secondly, the startup has made some serious upgrades to their FAM silicone 3D printer, which Lu outlined in detail to 3Ders. Among those improvements are a reduced layer thickness — down from 0.2mm to 0.05mm — as well as the development of a multi-nozzle printhead compatible with solvable support material. Lu also highlighted San Draw’s development of a unique post-processing system, which he said further smooths product surfaces.