How Formlabs 3D Printers Help Neucin Design Ltd Create High-Grade Medical Devices!
Medical device manufacturing relies on constant innovation to develop new and better ways to treat people and potentially save lives. Cutting-edge SLA 3D printing technology by Formlabs has helped Neucin Design streamline its design process and reach new levels of …
Medical device manufacturing relies on constant innovation to develop new and better ways to treat people and potentially save lives. Cutting-edge SLA 3D printing technology by Formlabs has helped Neucin Design streamline its design process and reach new levels of success.
Not only has the introduction of 3D printing drastically slashed Neucin’s lead times — from weeks to mere hours. It has also helped the company and its customers reduce costs, optimize design workflows, and improve productivity.
Read on to learn how Neucin uses the Formlabs Form family to rapidly create true-to-life prototypes from biomedical materials.
Formlabs 3D Printers Help Medical Research & Development
Neucin Design is a UK-based engineering and product development company, specializing in the design of medical and life science products from inception to commercial manufacturing. Founded in 2017, the close-knit team has more than 25 years of expertise in medical research and development.
“We’re a small company. There are only six of us, so there’s no hierarchy here. All of us in the company have different specialisms,” explains Carol Balfour, Neucin director and co-founder.
Since its inception, Neucin Design has harnessed the power of additive manufacturing. The company used to rely on FDM printers for rapid prototyping and product testing. Unfortunately, these machines weren’t ideal for medical applications due to their limited detail accuracy.
“Medical design is difficult,” says Balfour. “A lot of time, you just can’t prototype parts on an FDM or another machine — you have to make them as accurate as possible.”
Neucin Design turned to Solid Print3D to find the rapid prototyping solution it needed. With our help, the medical device developer implemented SLA 3D printers from the Formlabs Form family in their offices.
“We have three Formlabs printers — a Form 3BL, a Form 3B, and a Form 3. The Form 3BL allows us to print biomedical materials in large formats. Form 3B can also be used for biomedical materials, and Form 3 can use the full range of materials that we need,” Balfour details.
Prototyping at Speed with Medical-Grade Materials
The Formlabs printers have proved to be true game-changers for Neucin’s design processes. Henry Verity, a Neucin Design development engineer, says the internal response to the 3D printers has been great. They’ve enabled the engineers to realize intricate prototypes in materials they previously could only dream of.
“The Formlabs SLA printers have allowed us to test our products as close as possible to the final materials that we will be using to get an accurate representation of what they will be like. We can print with a wide range of materials — from Tough 2000, which is like ABS, to elastic and biomedical components,” Verity explains.
The vast Formlabs material range has transformed the way Neucin Design creates its prototypes. The company’s processes are now much more agile. The team can use life-like materials to go through multiple design iterations extremely fast.
Verity says that before the SLA printers, the company would outsource prototype manufacturing to third parties using conventional methods, such as CNC machining and injection moulding. The lead times for prototypes were often long, up to multiple weeks for a single design iteration.
But that’s no longer the case. Neucin Design is now able to design a part in the morning and by the same afternoon, they’ve produced two or three physical design iterations.
“The Formlabs printers allow us to iterate and prototype quickly and accurately without having to go through multiple expensive tooling changes. They also allow us to create much more complex geometries that standard approaches couldn’t necessarily do,” Balfour says.
Success Stories in Medical 3D Printing
Neucin Design has successfully employed SLA printing to deliver product designs and functional prototypes to its customers and clients. The technology’s accuracy and wide material range have served the company well in multiple cases, including:
Organ Transplant System
A U.S.-based client approached the Neucin Design team and asked them to develop a new organ transplant system. After receiving the specification, the company quickly created sketching out product concepts.
With their drawing in hand, Neucin Design used CAD modelling software and the Formlabs machines to 3D print a functional prototype. This prototype proved the design’s working principle before sending the parts out for machining.
“From there, we had further feedback and went through a second iteration — and even a third or fourth, to be fair. We then finalised the product and made a composite cover. We had a mixture of standard CNC parts and 3D printed parts to keep the cost down as this project was purely for feasibility,” says Balfour.
Now, after a development time of only nine months, Neucin Design has shipped a finished sample product to the client in America.
Dual-Dose Dry Powder Inhaler
Neucin Design has also designed and developed an innovative dual-dose dry powder inhaler (DPI). This discreet, low-cost, and simple DPI platform is a useful device for a variety of drug applications and treatments.
3D printing technology allowed Neucin to optimize the device’s complex internal geometry. As a result, the DPI has excellent airflow characteristics, enabling consistent and effective drug delivery.
This project also highlights the ability of 3D printing to work hand-in-hand with traditional manufacturing. The DPI platform was optimised for existing thermoforming manufacturing, keeping its cost low, assembly simple, and production volumes high.
Helping People Live Better — One Printed Layer at a Time
The Formlabs SLA printers have brought significant workflow benefits and time and cost savings to Neucin Design. Balfour says the Form 3 and Form 3B printers saw ROI in three months, and even the larger Form 3BL paid itself back in a year.
But it’s not just about Neucin Design. According to Balfour, the greatest beneficiaries are first and foremost the company’s customers and clients.
“The benefit is more towards our customers and them saving time and costs. The Formlabs machines give us more flexibility and let us offer more services that don’t necessarily bring us a lot of finance but allow us to offer added value to our customers,” she says.
Indeed, Neucin Design works with a wide range of clients, from NHS Trusts to large pharmaceutical companies and testing labs. With in-house SLA printers, Neucin Design can deliver rapid prototypes and design iterations at a low price point, significantly reducing the time to market for crucial healthcare appliances.
The printers also proved valuable during the COVID pandemic. Balfour explains that they enabled Neucin Design to demonstrate product concepts remotely.
“We could do video conferences with our clients and show them parts as physical objects. They still couldn’t touch them, but it was much better than just showing them a CAD file or a picture,” says Balfour.
SLA printing continues to open new doors for Neucin Design. It has brought on unprecedented improvements in productivity, business opportunities, and design quality. “I love the design and development work that I do that could potentially save lives and help people live better. Being able to print our designs out on Formlabs printers and having the prototypes in your hands in a matter of hours is amazing,” Verity says.
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