The Veterans Health Administration intends to increase its use of additive manufacturing — better known as 3D printing — solutions to produce medical devices through an expanded collaboration with 3D Systems, the company announced Thursday.
The VHA will form medical device manufacturing facilities inside veterans hospitals and work with 3D Systems’ healthcare additive manufacturing team in both design and the FDA clearance process. In addition to offering its advanced printers and materials, 3D Systems will also provide its related workflow and software to the agency.
“What becomes more critical to customer success is the partnership with a company that has knowledge and expertise operating in a regulated environment,” Ben Johnson, the company’s director of product development, healthcare, said in a statement. “Through this collaboration, 3D Systems will not only be installing 3D printers at the VHA sites, but we’ll also be helping them install a quality management system that includes the processes, documentation, and training required to be compliant as a medical device manufacturer.”
That training will include how to run the quality management system and how to submit the medical devices for regulatory clearance.
Experts from 3D Systems will work with the VHA team in both the company’s facilities and at the agency’s locations. This enabling of on-site production of medical devices will be a game-changer for delivering personalized care to veterans, according to Menno Ellis, 3D Systems’ executive vice president, healthcare solutions.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and the VHA have already recognized the potential 3D printing has in enhancing patient care. The VA established its integrated virtual printing network in early 2017 and has utilized it for printing hand and foot orthotics, replicating organs and planning surgery. That network now exists in at least 20 hospitals.
This isn’t the first time the VHA and 3D systems have worked together. In response to supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the company helped develop a 3D-printed nasopharyngeal swab that could be printed on production-level equipment.
“What began during the pandemic in response to a critical need has expanded to change the way healthcare is delivered,” Ellis said.