Shukla Medical, a manufacturer of surgical tools and subsidiary of aerospace manufacturer S.S. White Technologies — saves 10K of dollars per month by leveraging additive manufacturing for the production of surgical tools.
Prior to purchasing the Markforged Metal X system in 2017, the company only utilized CNC machining to fabricate prototypes for their surgical instruments. The engineering team realized that the long lead times of this method slowed down the product development cycle of prototypes and their launch to the market.
Furthermore, with the integration of 3D Printing in their production lines, they had a specific demand: creating functional prototypes out of carbon fiber for surgeons to check for form and fit.
“We put a lot of load on our instruments, and carbon fiber gives them more stiffness so it doesn’t feel like a toy,” says Adam Gosik-Wolfe, Mechanical Engineer at Shukla Medical.
As they achieved their goals with the carbon fiber 3D printer, the company wanted to explore production with new materials without compromising safety. For this reason, they turned to the Metal X and have been able to satisfy their need of printing with different materials. With stainless steel for instance (17-4PH Stainless Steel material from Markforged), they were able to fabricate their end product.
Furthermore, several tests were conducted on the 3D printed metal prototype to verify and validate it, and to ensure surgeons could practice using it. “3D printing the prototype product helps our surgeons test the part in their hands before going into the operating room, so they already have the experience and confidence in the tool,” says Zack Sweitzer, Product Development Manager at Shukla Medical. The metal 3D printed prototypes have the look and feel of the final product, and are vastly different to the prototypes the surgeons are used to testing. “The Metal X has let us print more complicated parts to conform to implant geometry that would have otherwise been very expensive to machine,” said Gosik-Wolfe. “I think we are at the tip of the iceberg with what we will be able to make with the Metal X in the coming years.”
With Markforged technology, Shukla is able to minimize time spent in the operating room, as well as increase safety and reduce recovery time for patients. “We’re going to bring a lot more products to market faster with our Markforged printers, and we finally have the design freedom to do it,” says Sweitzer.
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