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3D Printing Helps Innovators Make Equine Surgery Safer

How can 3D printing improve surgical outcomes for large animals?

A brown mare with her colt standing side by side in a green meadow.

The Challenge

Minimally invasive surgery is the standard of care for many common procedures in human medicine. Surgeons routinely perform procedures through tiny incisions with the aid of long, slender instruments, a scope, and a monitor which provide a high level of visualization. Consequently, patients have minimal tissue trauma, less blood loss, fewer postoperative complications, and a quicker return to normal activity. 

While many equine surgeons are currently using similar, minimally invasive techniques, the instruments lack the desired visualization features.

Veterinarian performing surgery on a horse.

The Solution: Designing & 3D Printing a New Medical Device

VetOvation, one of our customers, is changing that. Les Meadowcroft, President and CEO, is passionate about making veterinary surgery safer and less invasive. He spent most of his career in human medicine and transitioned to veterinary medicine when he launched VetOvation. 

While working with veterinary customers, it became clear that the visualization technology used in human surgeries was not available for large animal surgeries. So, Meadowcroft and one of his customers collaborated on a solution.  Then, Meadowcroft came to Strategic 3D Solutions with their concept for a medical device that allows a 5 mm scope to be introduced into the abdomen of a large animal. With this new device, surgeons would be able to see each layer of tissue to more safely insert the instrument.

Using Geomagic’s Design X Software and a Markforged 3D Printer, we transformed their concept into a functional prototype within days. We used Markforged, because the instrument needed to be strong and have an excellent surface finish.

Markforged 3D printed medical device using black Onyx material and continuous embedded carbon fiber for additional strength.

Markforged 3D printed prototype.

Markforged’s Onyx material (nylon with chopped carbon fiber) provides twice the strength and stiffness compared to most 3D printed materials. Additionally, for greater strength, we reinforced the Onyx by embedding continuous carbon fiber in the part.  This is a unique capability of Markforged. This feature produces parts with strength-to-weight ratios that can exceed 6061 aluminum. For this application, Onyx with continuous embedded carbon fiber was a perfect match.

Veterinarian performing the first surgery with the 3D printed prototype medical device while the horse is standing and lightly sedated.

First surgery with the prototype medical device.

“The enormous benefit of 3D printing is how quickly ideas for better instruments can go from concept to reality, providing better outcomes,” said Meadowcroft.

At Strategic 3D Solutions, we partner with customers to provide solutions every day. Need help with designing, 3D printing, or 3D scanning for your project? Planning to purchase a 3D printer or 3D scanner? Contact us.

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About the Author : brucereimer

Bruce Reimer is a business leader with over 30 years of experience in five industries: 3D printing, defense electronics, forensics, transportation technology, and agriculture equipment. His educational background includes a BS in Engineering and an MBA.

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