Ethan Broadway is a Radiographer with Edumation who works with a company that has developed a synthetic bone graft substitute. Ethan’s quest was to determine a better way to show potential clients how their product performed after surgery, other than using CT scans.
Ethan has followed 3D Printing for a few years, beginning with some of the popular kits available at the time. As an amateur astronomer, he knew that a desktop 3D printer would be a good way to create parts to improve his designs. “The only reason I didn’t buy a kit was I’d spend so much time assembling the thing and getting it running that I would never have time to actually build my telescopes.”
“My wife and I read Wired Magazine, and a recent issue had a story on really good out-of-the-box 3D printers. That got me really excited.” Soon thereafter, Ethan had a chance meeting with Mitch Ackman and Aaron Pratt of Afinia at the Design2Part Trade Show in Long Beach, CA.
“Meeting Mitch and Aaron was really a stroke of luck. As with any business, especially a start-up, we really watch our pennies at ABC. The Afinia 3D printer looked like it could do the job and was reasonably priced, so I bought one.”
Ethan’s idea was to turn pre and post-surgical CT scan data into printed 3D models that their sales people could show to orthopedists and orthopedic surgeons. “The 3D models would really show how our client’s product performs in a post-surgical environment.”
Much easier said than done, however. “The usability of CT scan data for 3D printing depends mostly on the scan density ordered by the orthopedist. Only a couple percent of all scans have the data density required for a good 3D print.”
Ethan developed a methodology whereby he imports the CT scan into modeling software, makes edits, creates an stl file and sends it to his Afinia 3D printer. “The first couple of tries were a bit rough and once I got the hang of it I was able to produce some really useful models.”
Then things really kicked into high gear: “We had a tradeshow coming up and I needed to produce a large number of models. I had my first Afinia printer maxed-out so I bought another one to keep up with the demand.” The models were very well received by potential clients which allowed us to gain much greater acceptance of our client’s product.”
One of the things that have proven to be very important to Ethan is Afinia’s customer service. “Quite frankly, I didn’t do a ton of research into their support capability. Fortunately, every time I’ve needed some assistance, the guys at Afinia have responded quickly and have allowed me to meet my production deadlines. Their support is first-class. I especially like that I can get someone on the phone. I understand that’s not the norm in the desktop 3D printing industry.”
Ethan has also had a bit of fun with his 3D printers: “We wanted to add anonymous patient data to our models, which required us to figure out how to incorporate debossed lettering. Halloween was coming up so I decided to experiment with some costume accessories for our HR Director’s son. He wanted to be a Ninja so I made him a rounded-off throwing star with the word “Ninja” on it. That first test gave me the skill to do something similar for our son. He has a Batman costume, so I made him a personalized Bat-O-Rang out of glow-in-the-dark filament.”
“These accessories went over really well and now my wife wants me to buy an Afinia 3D printer for our use at home.”