The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will be using 3-D printing to design, print, and produce its own medical devices.
According to a Nov. 5 press release, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) will partner with 3D Systems – a 3-D printer manufacturer – to design medical devices and take them through the FDA clearance process. VHA is looking to establish FDA-compliant manufacturing facilities within their hospitals for the production of additively manufactured medical devices. According to the FDA, additive manufacturing is a process that “builds an object by sequentially building 2- layers and joining each to the layer below.”
VHA is interested in using this development process because it allows device manufacturers to “rapidly produce alternative designs without the need for retooling and to create complex devices built as a single piece.” Through its work with 3D Systems, VHA is hoping to streamline its supply chain and accelerate innovation to enhance personalized patient care.
“Point-of-care facilities increasingly show interest in using 3D solutions as new technology emerges, becomes more user friendly, and incorporates automation,” 3D systems said in a statement.
Interest in 3D printing medical devices came from supply chain issues amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in the spring, the VA needed personal protective equipment for its medical facilities. VHA began working with 3D Systems to print face masks. Once those went into production, the VA began producing nasopharyngeal swabs needed for COVID-19 testing.
Initially, 3D Systems will manage regulatory paperwork and the development of a quality management system at VHA facilities. Over time, the company will train VHA staff to take over operations.
“In a highly regulated environment like healthcare, the technology is only a small part of the solution,” said Ben Johnson, director of product development, healthcare, at 3D Systems. “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.”