VA hospitals adopt 3D printers to create custom prostheses

Hospitals can share designs over a nationwide 3D printer network

VA stratasys 3D printer
Credit: A military veteran is fitted for his 3D-printed prosthesis/Stratasys photo

Five Veterans Affairs hospitals have been given 3D desktop printers, materials and training by Stratasys to enable the development of custom orthotics, prostheses and anatomical models.

The five "core" hospitals received the Stratasys Mojo 3D printers, which were then integrated into a collaborative network that allows doctors and researchers to leverage 3D prints for medical training and patient care.

VA stratasys 3D printer Stratasys

A 3D-printed hand model used for procedural planning and training.

If a VA doctor comes up with a new design for a medical training model or prosthetic device for a patient, it can be shared across hospitals where the CAD files can also be customized.

"Even those sites within the VA network that don't have the printers can leverage them," a Stratasys spokesman stated. "They send the 3D file to one of the core sites and a prosthetic, medical training device, etc., can be built."

The Mojo Professional desktop 3D printers, which weigh about 60 lbs. and sell for around $6,300 (Amazon price), use fused deposition modeling, a method that melts and then extrudes polymer filament in layer after successive layer to create an object from a digital file. The printer, which uses only acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (or ABS, a common plastic polymer), can create objects as large as 5-in. x 5-in. x 5-in. in size. Multiple printed parts can be assembled into larger prostheses or models.

Stratasys Mojo 3D printer Stratasys

The Stratasys Mojo Professional 3D printer.

Stratasys 3D Printers are being installed at VA hospitals in Puget Sound, San Antonio, Albuquerque, Orlando and Boston. Stratasys said it is also providing 3D printing materials and training along with support.

"This 3D printing network is a significant step forward in how we approach patient treatments. The technology not only enables 3D models of a patient's unique anatomy for diagnosis and treatment, but can also be used to engineer personalized health solutions for veterans," VA radiologist Beth Ripley, who is leading the initiative, stated in a news release.

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