Protolabs is a well-known 3D print and manufacturing service based in Minnesota, and they’ve been operating an awards program they call the “Cool Idea Award” since 2011. Since inception, the program has awarded projects some $1.5MM USD in services to aid in the development of products. The services awarded could be any of Protolabs’ extensive manufacturing services, including CNC milling, sheet metal work, injection molding and, of course, 3D printing.
Cleveland Clinic Healthcare Alliance Partnership
For this particular award, Protolabs has partnered with the Cleveland Clinic Healthcare Alliance, a group working together to generate and eventually commercialize healthcare innovations. A panel of judges from the Alliance and Protolabs chooses an award winner from worthy candidates twice a year.
Selected in this iteration for the award were two joint winners:
MedStar Health Syringe Holder
MedStar Health’s innovation is a “gravity feed syringe holder”. It seems that newborns who spend their first days in hospital incubators require very special care, including feeding of liquids from syringes. Normally, this is done manually by a nurse, who must hold the syringe for hours per day as the child slowly consumes the liquid.
The innovation is a specialized syringe holder that mounts on either an IV pole or the incubator itself. Four different syringe sizes can be accommodated as well.
The syringe holder, while a simple object, can free up the nurse’s hands to perform other nearby duties while still allowing supervision of the newborn. This is could be a huge productivity gain, and is clearly worthy of an award.
Protolab’s award was used by MedStar Health to make use of HP MJF 3D printing services to produce prototypes of the syringe holder.
Cleveland Clinic Innovations’ Leak Stopper
The second awardee is Cleveland Clinic Innovations, which is developing a “leak stopper”. The device is targeted at bedridden patients who depend on feeding tubes normally inserted through the skin into the gut.
These “stoma” are prone to infection for obvious reasons and can cause particularly difficult situations for patients, who must undergo antibiotic treatments regularly.
The leak stopper is a seal around the stoma that provides a friction barrier between the skin and the inserted tubes. Normally these tubes would aggressively rub against body tissues when the patient moves, generating leakage. The leak stopper forms a proper seal and allows some freedom of movement for the tubes. This concept should reduce the possibility of infection greatly.
Cleveland Clinic Innovations made use of Protolabs’ injection molding service to complete prototypes of the leak stopper, a rendering of which is shown at top.
3D Print Services Supporting Innovation
Two highly deserving projects received a boost thanks to Protolabs’ award program, and hopefully, these innovations will make their way forward into the medical universe and make life better for patients. Award programs such as Protolabs’ are of significant value to any organization developing new and innovative products. I’m pleased to see their results in this iteration.
But at the same time, I wonder why other 3D print services do not always offer similar programs. Do we not all want to help make the world a little bit better?