Sarasota Memorial Hospital is using 3D printed equipment to improve staff work lives and patient safety.
SRQ Review | January 2022
In Health and wellness
3D printer creating strain relief parts for cables. Images courtesy of Sarasota Memorial Hospital
What could you do with $1000? Go shopping ? Treat your friends to a sumptuous evening on the town? How about using it to save lives? Well, that’s exactly what Sarasota Memorial Hospital did. Last year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as vital medical supplies and personal protective equipment such as CAPRs (controlled air purifying respirators) became increasingly difficult to find, SMH made a life-changing purchase. With $1,000, the hospital acquired a small 3D printer that would quickly become an essential tool in its arsenal. Using this tiny but powerful machine, SMH’s biomedical engineering team was able to create CAPR mounting tab replacements so medical providers don’t have to rely on N95 masks – which can often be claustrophobic and lack eye cover – to protect them from COVID-19 while treating infected patients. But that’s far from the end of the story.
Over the past year, Sarasota Memorial Hospital has been testing the waters with exactly what can be achieved with 3D printing in the medical field using innovative technology to create a more ergonomic environment for medical workers. As many of us know, some of the most necessary and useful things in life are those that can often be overlooked. This is also true in the medical field, as discovered by SMH. Managing cables and hoses in the operating room is a major focus – these critical components not only deliver anesthesia, but also provide vital gases and monitor patient vital signs. And because they can pose a tripping hazard in the operating room, SMH’s biomedical engineering team worked on solving this problem. “We’re trying to create different methods to keep these cables out,” says Robert Santos, director of SMH’s biomedical engineering and technology assessment department. “We even have a little clip that we designed that goes on the surgical table accessory rail. It’s a small plastic clip that the pipes can grab onto so they don’t fall on the floor. The biomedical engineering team also worked on ways to reinforce the weak point of the cables to reduce the risk of bending and breaking.
Since beginning its 3D printing journey last year, Sarasota Memorial Hospital has purchased a larger 3D printer, allowing it to create larger parts, and more recently, a 3D scanner. This machine works by taking a series of images of the object placed on its platform and then converting them into a CAD (computer-aided design) file that can be used as a template for creating a prototype. “Once an idea is received, we can usually produce a prototype in 24 to 48 hours,” explains Santos. “We often have a faster turnaround than even Amazon Prime.”
This is just the beginning of what is to come. “We’ve only scratched the surface talking to some hospital leaders and discussing the technology,” he says. “We did some really simple, but important things for them.” Santos and his department believe that the next major step for SMH will be metal 3D printing, which, although more expensive, will allow for the creation of more durable and long-lasting equipment.