Earlier this month, SLA and SLS 3D printing unicorn Formlabs hosted its very first European User Summit in Berlin. An extension of the annual event of the same name held close to the company’s headquarters in Massachusetts, the event was an opportunity to learn how to make the most of Formlabs technology, and to network with other individuals working in the sector.
Attendees to the latest event were treated to a jam-packed schedule including keynote speeches from New Balance’s Katherine Petrecca, Formlabs CPO Dávid Lakatos, and Bram De Zwart, co-founder of 3D Hubs, as well as “Industry Lightning Talks” specific to various sectors of the market, panels and hands-on training sessions.
From Charité, one of the largest university hospitals in Europe, 3D Printing Industry speaks to Research Associate Jan Brüning who spoke on the “User Breakout” panel: Designing for Humans at the event. Dr. Sam Pashneh-Tala, Research Fellow at The University of Sheffield and User Summit Industry Lightning Talk speaker, also gives an overview of his work which applies Formlabs SLA to tissue engineering research.
3D printing in medicine knows no limits
Dr. Pashneh-Tala’s research at the University of Sheffield is focused on development of tissue-engineered blood vessels for use in vascular surgery. In his lab, Formlabs SLA 3D printers are applied to manufacture equipment, like cell scaffolds, used for growing live blood vessels. “Tissue engineering is all about personalized medicine,” he explains, “and the versatility of additive manufacturing makes it a key technology to help deliver this.” Eventually, the hope is that 3D printing will help to grow bespoke, patient-specific, vascular tissue grafts which can be implanted into patients as a treatment.
For Dr. Pashneh-Tala the Formlabs User Summit was an inspiring networking opportunity for his future work, “The show generated a wealth of new ideas for projects and collaborations,” he said, adding “Formlabs is such a dynamic company with a grand vision for transforming manufacturing and delivering impact through access to technology.
“[…] I am very excited to explore all the new avenues that have presented themselves.”
Elsewhere, Brüning, who works at the Charité Institute for Imaging Science and Computational Modelling in Cardiovascular Medicine, spoke in the Designing for Humans breakout session, alongside Christoph Trautner, Account Manager Medical DACH at Materialise, Dani Clode, Head Product Designer and Founder of the Third Thumb project, and Matej Vlašič, Founder of custom orthotic producer aNImaKe. With a general interest in 3D printing, one of Brüning’s takeaways from the Formlabs European User Summit was simply “the sheer amount of applications 3D printing is currently used for.” Design for orthoses and prostheses was one of the topics covered in the Designing for Humans panel, but other breakout sessions also covered automotive, dental, and scalable workflows for products.
Brüning adds, “The fact that there are already consumer-level products for which 3D printing is used was a nice takeaway.”
Formlabs in consumer products
Though medicine and dentistry were strong themes throughout the recent User Summit schedule, the wider, over-arching area of interest appeared to be in the consumer application of 3D printing. In fact, the medical and dental applications that drew guests’ attention were often related to end-use products that are accessible to the public.
No doubt influenced by Formlabs’ work with the likes of Digital Smile Design and Voodoo Manufacturing, Brüning in particular commented on how “commonly” 3D printing is used in dental health practices.
Beyond that, New Balance’s FuelCell Echo sneaker with 3D printed parts of the sole, also gained a new customer in Dr. Pashneh-Tala. “It was great to see this innovative application in their footwear, utilizing the combination of material properties and complex structures that 3D printing can manufacture,” Dr. Pashneh-Tala comments, “I couldn’t help but order a pair of the shoes for myself.”
Consumer products will always be the most tangible and accessible examples of 3D printing’s potential. For the near future at least, it seems Formlabs is dedicated to growing its presence in this sector.
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Featured image shows inside Formlabs User Summit Europe 2019 in Berlin. Photo by Dr. Sam Pashneh-Tala, Research Fellow at The University of Sheffield