Using Concept Laser technology, specialist developers at Sutrue, a cardiac device design company, have 3D printed a tool to be used in heart operations. The automated suturing device helps surgeons to stitch together tissue after an operation – a process that has remained largely unchanged since the 1st century BC.
The instrument works by feeding a typical “needle and thread” suture through a horse-shoe shaped arrangement of cogs. This horse-shoe shape is designed to fit through small incisions, to hold and stitch-togther delicate tissues found in the heart. The mechanism allows reproducible accuracy at a rate of up to three rotations of a needle per second, as opposed to one every 25 seconds by hand.
Richard Trimlett, a consultant in cardiology at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London, works with Suture on device development giving the point of view from the operating theatre. Speaking in an interview with Concept Laser, Trimlett says that patients typically take around 6 months to recover from “a conventional surgical intervention” but with the device “Initial experience indicates that patients undergo a demonstrably gentler procedure and can recover after just three to four weeks.”
Additive manufacturing has been used to create the intricate gears inside the device. With the Mlab cusing machine, Sutrue developers were able to print up to 600 of the gears on a single build plate in Stainless steel 316L.
Alex Berry founder of Sutrue, outlines the disadvantages of manufacturing the gears using conventional methods, saying
“In addition to the restrictions on geometry, conventionally milled or cast parts have a few other drawbacks. It takes a great deal of time to get to the finished prototype. In addition, the costs are very high. In 3D printing the parts are produced very quickly and at a fraction of the previous costs of prototyping
…the potential for bionic designs, reproducibility, miniaturization and not least the reduction in the number of parts and outlay on assembly is also vast. If one looks at the full spectrum of optimizing manufacturing and product design coupled with an increase in functionality, 3D printing is capable of revolutionizing medical instruments.”
Jackson, Beau. “Sutrue Uses Concept Laser Metal 3D Printing in Device for Keyhole Surgery.” 3D Printing Industry. N.p., 12 May 2017. Web. 12 May 2017.