Artificial Intelligence Healthcare

Stryker, J &J bet on medical tech uses of 3D printing

Medical device firms including Stryker Corp. and Johnson & Johnson are using 3D-printing to make surgical implants such as hip and knee joints.

The largest 3D-printing factory in the world making medical implants is located near Cork, Ireland and works around the clock.

The two-year-old facility was built by Stryker Corp., (NYSE: SYK) the U.S.-based medical devices company and  is capable of producing hundreds of thousands of  hip and knee joints annually. A recent article in the Economist magazine noted that the plant has taken 3D printing to the next level.

First generation 3D printing was able to make one-off prototypes, but this generation, using Artificial Intelligence (AI) software and additive manufacturing can replicate the complex machining. It uses laser passes over titanium powder to melt the powder and make the device.

3D printing lays down an object layer by layer taking thousands of tiny photographic slices. They are combined to create a complete picture to build objects, including complex internal structures.

Stryker’s hip and knee joints have a porous surface that allows bone to grow through them, strengthening the joint over time.

stryker titanium implant
Stryker Corp uses 3D printing to make a hollow titanium cage used in spinal surgery. The porous material lets bone grow through to strengthen the implant. Credit: Stryker Corp.

Stryker was founded in 1941 in Michigan and is a Fortune 500 company with annual revenues of US $73 billion and 2018 revenues of  US$13.6 billion. It makes a wide variety of medical implants used in joint replacement as well as surgical navigation systems.

Last August, Stryker enhanced its 3D presence paying US $1.4 billion for K2M, a medical supply company based in Virginia that uses 3D printing to make spinal supports used in surgery.

Johnson & Johnson Inc., another Fortune 500 company known for medical devices and consumer products such as Band-Aid and Neutrogena skin products, has also moved into 3D printing. J&J has a market capitalization of US $279 billion and 2018 revenues of  US $81.58 billion.

J&J has set up a 3D printing Center of Excellence at the University of Miami to train engineers in the uses of 3D printing. J&J is also collaborating with Trinity College Dublin  in a  3D bioprinting lab. The focus is on fabricating tissues and organs to imitate natural characteristics.

These are examples of initiatives which combine new technologies with artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to create new solutions for healthcare.

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