Increasingly the 3D printers used in rapid prototyping services are saving money for companies, soon though they could be saving lives. Z Corporation Z Printers are being used for rapid prototyping services within University of California at Berkeley to develop the latest Magnetic Particle Imaging Scanners.
The clearer the image of a patient’s body is the more likely it is a doctor will spot something important. This includes vital details prior to surgery as well as in diagnosis. Spotting small growths may allow cancer for example to be diagnosed early. With current X-rays and Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scanners images are not accurate enough to always spot small details that could save lives. In the case of the Magnetic Particle Imaging Scanner it will be able to look inside hearts and the brain with pin point accuracy and detect damage and other problems. In the past this would have required surgery and scanners that emitted radiation.
The development of prototype scanners is very expensive. Currently small scanners that can be used on animals as prototypes are being made but this doesn’t lessen the cost that significantly. With a prototype changes are going to be made constantly and this is why in industry companies are increasingly using 3D printing for their rapid prototyping services which can print parts quickly, cheaply and, in the case of things such as scanners and other technology, accurately.
Coming from a digital file, that can quickly be adjusted based on findings from a previous model, a 3D print can be sent to a Z Printer in seconds and takes only hours to print. This cuts out delays of course that building a part with traditional rapid prototyping techniques or with tooling would have.
3D printing also cuts out a lot of costs, which is important for two reasons. For a start on this Magnetic Particle Imaging Scanner project and on other similar projects at other university research departments, getting a budget in place to develop is difficult and so lower costs mean more projects can be funded. A lower cost in developing a piece of equipment will also make it cheaper to buy once it is produced for use in hospitals. The manufacturing of items will be as expensive but a lot of the price is to cover the initial development costs. Less development costs to cover will mean cheaper equipment that can be used by more hospitals and therefore help more people.
Using Z Printers for their rapid prototyping services the team at Berkeley report making savings even compared to other 3D printers they previously used. Patrick Goodwill leading the project reports the Z Printer takes half the time of the previous printer and prints 30 parts for the cost of one on the previous machine. Z Printers are so cheap to use in fact that students, who have all been trained to use 3D CAD software, are free to send their designs to the printer to allow them to try out their own parts and as many iterations as needed.