Stryker, the Kalamazoo, Mich.-based manufacturer of medical devices and equipment, is building a state-of-the-art 3D printing facility in 2016.
The facility will be a part of $400-450 million in capital expenditures that Stryker expects to make this year, the other major project being a standardization of the company's enterprise resource planning software across its global operations. Stryker CEO Kevin Lobo mentioned the 3D project in passing during an investor's conference call earlier this week.
Providers and suppliers have increasingly looked to 3D printing as a fast, inexpensive way to develop customized devices and better models to help medical students and surgeons visualize patient organs. Innovations in the field have included a ribcage for a patient in Spain and tracheal splints for four infants treated at the University of Michigan Health System.
Stryker has already been using 3D printing for a number of new products, including its knee system, said Bill Jellison, Stryker's departing CFO. The company will also soon launch a 3D-printed titanium interbody device for the spine.
But customers shouldn't expect to see a mass move to 3D printing for all products, Lobo said. He said the manufacturing process is about enabling innovation of new products like a cementless knee, but won't yet be used just yet to drive down costs on existing products.
“For the foreseeable future, at least the next three, four years or so, our focus is really on innovative new products and not replacing our existing products with 3D printed products,” Jellison said. “The pipeline of innovative new geometries that can't be made without 3D printing is the area of focus.”
Lobo later added that 3D printing spine and knee products is much more complicated than printing plastic devices because of the combustible nature of metal. “You just don't buy a machine and have it be off to the races, as it's a lot more complicated than that, " Lobo said.