As a leading medical product design firm in North America, MAKO is always using new cutting edge technologies to advance the medical industry. Creating products that will be used to one day save lives, increase life satisfaction, or simply make a medical practitioner’s job more efficient is what drives us when working on these projects. So when we discovered the latest advancement in 3-D printing for any medical product design firm known as “shape shifting”, it was music to our ears.
Shape Shifting 3-D Printing
Engineers recently created a 3-D printed plastic that can change their shape when triggered to do so. Previously, the material would need heating, cooling, and external manipulations to take a new shape. With this new approach, it’s already done in the printer using material manipulations. For any medical product design firm, this represents an advancement of epic proportions!
How 4-D Printing Works
The researchers who created this technology are using two types of materials that are carefully combined in the 3D-printed structure to create the desired shape-shifting effect. A soft material holds the energy that drives the shape-change but in the cool state, the energy of the soft material is held by another, stiff material which is like glass. This stiff material softens when exposed to heat, allowing the soft polymer to take over. The material is designed to remember the second shape and default to it when it’s heated. 4D-printing techniques before this could create materials that change their shape only temporarily, and then after a while, return to the original printed shape.
4-D Printing in Medical Product Design
So how does this apply to a medical product design firm like MAKO? We use new materials to create our products every day. We want to make everything lighter, stronger, and faster. Objects that can change shape within seconds after being exposed to heat demonstrate a new technique that could be used to create medical devices that unfurl on their own in the body during surgical procedures. For a medical product design firm, it represents a new layer of opportunity around product functionality, usability, and application for the end user. Products will be designed to take on many forms and configurations, instead of just one static product.
For example, devices like stents, tiny tubes used to widen arteries in the prevention of strokes and heart disease would be a great candidate for this new technology. With the new shape shifting technique, the device could be triggered by the human’s body heat to expand instead of using an external, invasive medical procedure.
While this advancement does present a world of new opportunities, the technology is still in preliminary phases with additional research required. As a leading medical product development firm, it’s our responsibility to stay on top on cutting edge technologies that will collectively advance the product design industry. Let us know what you think of shape shifting 3D printing!
MAKO Design + Invent is a full-service consumer product development firm servicing both high-growth corporate manufacturers and invention startups. With a 25-person team across 3 offices (Austin, England, Toronto), MAKO has complete in-house industrial design, mechanical engineering, and electrical engineering design and prototyping services. To assist our start-up inventor clients, we also have a subsidiary branch called Mako Invent that, in addition to above, helps start-ups with patenting, strategy, marketing, and sales/distribution for all consumer product categories. For our corporate clients, MAKO Design develops world-class consumer electronics designs through our industrial, mechanical, and electrical design teams.