Shapeways, a 3D printing firm specializing in customized orthotic and prosthetic devices, has recently added the biodegradable nylon PA11 to their materials portfolio. This advancement resulted in part from a partnership between the company and OEM EOS, a leader in industrial 3D printing of polymers and metals. The two believe it will increase physicians’ accessibility to 3D printing.
“Expanding our reach to the medical industry to make life-changing enhancements available is something we could have only imagined when we first opened our doors,” said Greg Kress, CEO of Shapeways.
Shapeways’ movement into the medical device field impacts 3D printing by bringing the PA11 material into play with research-supported solutions. Affordable materials are always in demand to make prosthetics and braces, and the castor oil-derived PA11 nylon is a prime option.
The PA11 material is naturally sourced and known for its impact resistant and elastic nylon properties. Offering superior strength and flexibility, PA11 is a durable and ductile material with high elongation at break. It is currently used in many industrial applications, including automotive, medical, and other demanding uses. PA11’s properties are well-suited for aerospace and electronic use as well.
The material is popular for active and wearable goods, being that its parts and hinges can snap into place. Customized, high impact parts such as prosthetics, braces, insoles, and other exterior medical devices are several areas that PA11’s properties are best fit for. The PA11 exterior devices will be offered in a natural white finish that can be dyed to any desired color as well.
Kress is optimistic about furthering his company’s work with the medical devices, stating: “We look forward to working with the medical industry and creating products such as prosthetic limbs, making someone’s life better. This is what the 3D Printing industry has been working towards, and making it available to businesses of all sizes is a real dream.”
The New York City-based Shapeways was created in 2007, at which point EOS became one of the company’s first additive manufacturing partners. Shapeways facilities throughout the U.S. and Europe are home to many EOS 3D printers. Specifically, the EOS P 396 3D printer is responsible for 3D printing of the new PA11 parts.
“Collaborating with the industry visionaries at Shapeways has always felt like a privilege,” commented Glynn Fletcher, President of EOS North America. “Working together to combine their expertise, our technology with an eco-friendly polymer breakthrough seems like an appropriate extension to our complementary pioneering attitude.”
Shapeways received a $30 million grant in 2018 to expand their operations and services. The company has recently broadened their possibilities in 3D printing by partnering with Stratasys, then with Silicon Valley’s Carbon shortly after. The latter gave Shapeways’ customers access to Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis technology.
“PA11 has the potential to transform how the medical industry can use 3D printing to improve patient outcomes. It has the additional benefit of lowering the negative, ecological effects that are generally associated with petroleum based plastics. We are proud to be part of the venture and look forward to seeing how far the technology, materials and collaboration can take us,” concluded Fletcher.
— Leslie Langnau (@DW_3DPrinting) April 1, 2019