The Responsiveness and Value of 3D Printing
2020 was a challenging year for many in product development and manufacturing. As global supply chains collapsed at the start of the crisis, 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), stepped in to quickly remedy shortages in critical healthcare supplies. AM’s ability for rapid, agile production of face shields and masks, nasal swabs, and replacement ventilator parts demonstrated not only the responsiveness and value of the technology, but also contributed to the industry’s growth and solidified its position as a viable manufacturing method. According to the Wohlers Report 2021, the industry-leading report on additive manufacturing, this agile response contributed to the industry’s 7-9 percent growth worldwide for the year. Industry growth is expected to rebound to pre-COVID levels by 2022.
Although the crisis slowed business at many companies that develop, support and use 3D printing, there were several others who continued to use the technology- helping to advance the development and acceptance of additive manufacturing. Even in a pandemic, companies turned to additive manufacturing for both accurate prototyping and production. Using the same commercial 3D printing process and material for both activities can positively impact the way products are developed and brought to market. One example is the ongoing relationship we have with CGX to produce electroencephalogram (EEG) headsets for research and clinical use.
From Concept to Production
With production volumes fewer than 1,000 units annually and a relatively high unit cost ($20,000 and up), CGX’s complex EEG devices were ideal for additive manufacturing. CGX turned to the 3D printing services at Avid Product Development for prototypes and production of its Quick-20r EEG headsets. Our in-house HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printing systems were used for both product development and manufacturing in PA11.
After many iterations were developed and tested, the final design of the CGX Quick-20r headset consolidates 80 unique parts into 30. The device includes 19 “pods” that house the EEG sensors and contact a person’s head to capture brain activity. With additive manufacturing, the pods can be preassembled and adjustable with three degrees-of freedom, a feature that would have otherwise necessitate complex assembly.
According to Ira Friedman, president of CGX, the device would require 200 individual parts if they used injection molding. Tooling for these parts would have required extensive upfront capital, which was avoided with the use of AM.
This post was adapted from the SME Article, Growling AM Industry Shows its True Mettle in Covid-19 Pandemic, which includes highlights from Wohlers Report 2021, produced annually by Wohlers Associates. For more information, visit wohlersassociates.com.