3D Printing: Will It Make Medical Device Packaging Redundant?

My question might be a little tongue in cheek, but the latest blog posting on FDA Voice shows that, for some new products, distribution packaging will not be needed. Examples are given of devices that might one day be printed on-demand in hospitals:

 Rolande Hall

A hospital in Michigan implants a 3D printed medical device into a 3-month-old boy with a rare bronchial condition and saves a young life.
A man has 75 percent of his skull replaced with a
3D printed implant.

Clearly, if medical devices can be printed cheaply in hospitals there will be a need for suitable in-hospital sterilisation facilities. This might prove to be an opportunity to expand the use of nitrogen dioxide and hydrogen peroxide sterilisation technology.

Taking this progress to its logical conclusion, perhaps some sections of the MDM industry will choose to relocate onto hospital campuses adjacent to the point of use. This would be great for the environment: Cut out packaging costs and distribution costs, and avoid recycling issues. UDI would be a breeze.

The Snap-Together RoboHand prosthetic was invented by South African carpenter Richard van As and made available for free on the Internet. Before printing, the hand can be individually sized, and all connecting pieces are also printed. The device can now be printed for less than $100.

It is interesting to note that, according to the FDA blog, the agency has invested in additive printing facilities. I presume we can assume that this is not a forerunner to a federal government device manufacturing operation.

Stay relevant as a medical device packaging engineer

Rolande Hall, FIMMM Pkg Prof

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