3D printing is becoming a common tool for the design of prototypes for medical equipment. This includes, for example, the development of components of a patient table for use in MRI scanners. The specific project for Popp Group involved the development of a winding body for a rotating device, which later had to be fitted directly on the patient table.
The designed part had to accommodate the fixing and assembly components as well as the cover. While the end product was injection molded, the entire prototyping was carried out with an X400 3D printer from German RepRap.
“Only when we are certain that no more modifications are required do we create the expensive injection mold,” said Rene Schneider, project leader. “Up to that time, we do everything with 3D printing. Any faults or changes required by the customer are easy to rectify and implement. We previously had to wait several days for a new prototype, such as for CNC milled parts. But the 3D printed prototype is often already available in a matter of hours. The printing of this winding body took around 10 to 12 hours.”
Thanks to the large build area of approximately 40 × 40 cm, Popp is able to print three parts at the same time.
For Popp Group, compared to conventional prototyping, there are no disadvantages with 3D printing for prototyping. Prototypes are required to have the same properties as the end product, both mechanically and functionally, as well as with regard to their material characteristics. “The PLA frequently used in 3D printing is ideal here for medical technology since it is non-imaging and is not therefore shown in an MRI scan,” Schneider said.
“3D printing has become firmly established in product development at the Popp Group. Our X400 3D printer runs at full capacity,” Schneider added.