At Medtronic - Sofamor Danek, cutting-edge medical technology takes new shape.
Doctors make house calls, but there are no patients to see at Medtronic’s Sofamor Danek prototype lab.
Instead they come to see their ideas for new surgical instruments become working prototypes with the help of FDM prototyping.
With locations in Memphis, Tenn. and Rossi, France, Sofamor Danek is the world leader in spinal and cranial medical technologies.
"The tool we developed combines the two existing tools into a single unit. As the surgeon squeezes two handle pieces together, the ratchet tightens the screws." said design engineer Richard Franks.
The engineers produced a working polycarbonate ratchet strong enough to withstand testing on stainless steel set-screws and durable enough to survive an autoclave. In addition, senior engineering manager Troy McDonald said.
"Surgeons are really rough on these prototypes while trying them out, so we have got to have tough material. FDM gave us the strength and durability we needed. We often see one or two VIP surgeons per day.
"They come in with a problem to solve in the morning. They explain their need to an engineer; the engineer will model a solution on ProEngineer and then make a prototype. Often by the next morning we’ll have a prototype in their hands," design engineer Richard Franks said.
Sofamor Danek engineers recently designed a ratcheting counter-torque instrument that surgeons use to fasten set-screws to a corrective implant on a patient’s vertebrae.
After when the screws are fixed in place, the tool shears off the screw heads at a pre-set torque level. The existing method required surgeons to use separate tools, working them in opposing directions, using both hands.
The result was often a violent impulse that occurred at the moment the screw head sheared off and the surgeons wanted to eliminate that.