In making a choice about which software to use, Mr. Burley looked more closely at the department needs and which Materialise package would fit best. The Materialise Mimics Innovation Suite was chosen, as it covers the workflow of DICOM segmentation, device design and preparation for 3D Printing. Then, being a cancer center, the team would be looking at surgical planning, reconstructions and jaw osteotomies. ProPlan CMF was the software of choice for these tasks.
There have been a few difficulties with getting some of the consultants onboard with the idea of 3D Printing, but ultimately it was rather easy to convince them, says Mr. Burley. Even one of the most conservative surgeons came to ask for a consultation and yielded positive results.
Building the business case
Cost is another big element of making your plan, says Mr. Burley. Initially, the hospital was spending 120K GBP on outsourced 3D printing projects annually. Mr. Burley started by making a financial plan, looking at the cost of the materials, material consumption – how much it would cost per gram, per type of material, per model – printer maintenance, licenses, staff members, and number of expected cases. This last part was set to 20 cancer cases per year, and then perhaps 8-10 trauma-related cases.
Another key consideration was to try and reduce theatre time, which also means reducing the time a patient spends under anesthetic. The aim was to improve patient outcomes by reducing the amount of bone being wasted during an operation, such as a bone graft. Previously, the bone used for the graft would have to be cut bigger than necessary, to leave a bit of margin in case the original measurement wasn’t enough. Now with planning in 3D, the bone can be cut precisely to fit its new location.
Mr. Burley also took a look at how communication with the external partner could be time-consuming. Having the lab in-house would foster an easier collaboration with medical team and provide accessibility to the lab.
By looking at all these aspects, Mr. Burley has achieved significant financial savings for each case they worked on in-house. One of the main costs the lab has are software licenses, but as these licenses remain the same price during the whole year, the more cases you have, the lower the costs. So financially, setting up a 3D lab in-house was an obvious choice.
Finding the funding
As for funding, the lab had the good fortune of a generous patient donating enough funds to cover the costs of the printer. After that, Mr. Burley looked at many alternative ways to raise funds. “Don’t just look at what you can be given but at how you can get it via other means,” says Mr. Burley. Look at the big picture, and all the possible avenues that can provide funding. Getting creative, Mr. Burley even wrote to the Manchester football club to ask for funds, offering a possible exchange in service when there’s a sports injury. We’re all looking forward to a response.
Mr. Burley expects the lab to snowball. Already, as of the first case in late mid-October, there have been four cases in four weeks. At this rate, their prediction of 20 cases per year will soon be a distant memory.
We now have the resources and ability to use the software, says Mr. Burley. The original goal for the lab was to use it for head and neck reconstruction cases, but now, they take in smaller cases as well.
Mr. Burley hopes the use of the lab will expand to include other departments such as orthopedics, neurology, rheology, and he wants to increase the lab’s capacity accordingly. This will also contribute to bringing in revenue. He’s also planning to ask other hospitals to participate in using the lab.
Spread the word of your lab
Mr. Burley highlights the importance of making your lab known. People are aware of the technology and are interested in how to use 3D Printing. To give your lab a good momentum, involve as many people as you can, create a newsletter to keep people updated on your progress and projects. Being part of a worldwide community filled with passionate people who share their insights on their 3D printing experience, their inspiration for future projects or for innovative ways of using 3D technology, is an essential element in making your 3D lab a success.