With 3-D printed ACL graft, DanaMed cut costs by 97 percent

por Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | January 08, 2016
Medical Devices Population Health
DanaMed Inc.'s Pathfinder
ACL Guide
DanaMed Inc. cut manufacturing costs by 97 percent using 3-D printing to manufacture its Pathfinder ACL Guide 3-D rather than conventional methods. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, a provider of 3-D printing and conventional manufacturing services in North America, 3-D printed the metal tools using its Direct Laser Sintering (DMLS) technology.

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the most commonly injured ligaments of the knee, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. About 200,000 ACL injuries occur annually and 100,000 ACL reconstructions are performed each year.

Dr. Dana Piasecki, an orthopedic surgeon at OrthoCarolina Sports Medicine, developed the Pathfinder system by investigating surgical techniques that would improve grafting positioning. He discovered that it’s important to use a surgical tool that is specifically designed to match the anatomy of the knee.

He refined the design using Fused Deposition Modeling, an additive manufacturing technology used for modeling, prototyping and production applications. He then realized that he needed to use a manufacturing process that could create the tools at an affordable price and be flexible enough to make design changes quickly.

Piasecki decided that Stratasys Direct Manufacturing’s DMLS technology could meet the requirements. DMLS uses a precise, high-wattage laser to micro-weld powdered metals and alloys to form fully functional metal components from computer-aided design data.

The Pathfinder is printed with Inconel 718 material, which meets the biocompatibility, surface finish, oil resistance and mechanical requirements. It underwent rigorous testing and is now registered with the FDA as a Class 1 Medical Device and is used by orthopedic surgeons across the country.

The Pathfinder has been shown to have a 95 percent success rate of anchoring grafts in their native ACL locations — other methods are more challenging to perform and may increase the instance of surgical complications and risk of re-injury. When the grafts are anchored this way, it allows the repaired ACLs to bear the same stress as a natural ACL can.

Companies are increasingly turning to 3-D printing methods to manufacture their metal parts. A recent survey that was sponsored by Stratasys Direct Manufacturing found that 3-D printing usage in the U.S. is anticipated to almost double over the next three years.

In order to meet those coming market demands for metals, Stratasys Direct Manufacturing has almost tripled its additive metals inventory over the last 18 months.

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