Canada Makes // PolyUnity - Podcast #3

Canada Makes // PolyUnity - Podcast #3

Canada Makes // PolyUnity - Podcast #3

November 10, 2022

Listen as Dr Stephen Ryan, cofounder of PolyUnity, talks to Mark Kirby about how 3d printing is teleporting medicine across Newfoundland, improving lives and healthcare outcomes, while reducing costs.

Inspired by NASA “So in my mind simply sending something to the space station and making it there was no different than getting it to some of our more rural places in the province.”

The light bulb moment “We sent this little printer - about $300.00 - to the tundra of Labrador, and we loaded up an umbilical clip file. We emailed it to this this tent in the tundra powered by a generator, and they manufactured there. At that point the light bulb went off that you can effectively teleport useful equipment to remote places with 3D printers.”

From theory to practice in a pandemic “The vision was to have a curated list of medical equipment like a thingy verse, but curated, regulated and with high quality control systems in place. When the pandemic hit, we had a rudimentary version of this already kind of programmed and assembled. And then we got to put it into full force - full swing, flick of a switch - overnight, everything went from theory to practice. A bunch of us got pulled out of medical training. We assemble the print farm of about 70 to 75 printers.”

Right sizing with 3d printing “When we get the first wave of vaccine, vials came in enormous kind of pizza boxes, massive doses because that's how they were intended to be distributed. But in Newfoundland some of our towns are only as big as 200 to 300 people scattered all the way around a little island. So getting these things was logistically challenging. The vials had to be upright, they couldn't tip over or they were spoiled. They had to be custom fitted. They had to be stackable, and they had to be maintained at a certain temperature. We made a custom vial tray, parametrically generated so we could make it as big or small as you need it. Again, the print farm was about 70 printers big. Once we had an initial prototype cleared by the CDC, we manufactured a variety of shapes and sizes and very quickly Newfoundland Labrador became the quickest, earliest and highest vaccinated province in Canada. We like to think we played an interesting little role in that.”

Innovating, Improving and Immortalizing “I've been in hospital settings and seen way too many pieces of duct tape on way too many things. And there has to be a better solution than that.”

Collaborative pull vs product push “I think this is maybe the most exciting piece of what we do because it is us collaborating with our clients to find solutions and I think traditionally in healthcare manufacturing, a lot of products are developed and then marketed to the hospital, whereas with us we approach the front line of workers who are experiencing frustrations, missing parts, facing inefficiencies and they simply just tell us about their problems.”

How do ideas get submitted “We've had something as simple as an emergency Doc scribble a drawing on a Post-It note, took a picture of it and send it to us, and he said, can you make this? And we take that design, put it up into the catalog, and then he's free to consume it so he can he can order one printed, and it shows up in his emerg room in 24/48 hours, and that's one of the most rewarding back and forth.”

How many products so far “Over the span of four months, we cataloged and designed a little over 300 products, individual SKUs ranging from battery covers, bed bumpers, clips, clamps, test tube holders and everything in between. It was amazing when we gave everybody the opportunity to submit ideas or ask for things, the floodgates opened!”

Future developments “When I told you earlier about the crash carts and having 70 printers in the manual work, I have nightmares about those situations sometimes. And when I think about a future with an Array, all that goes away. It's going to empower what we do to move it to a next level. I think it'll also lead to a lot more adoption of the technology and software from hospitals because the some of these headaches and frustrations associated with 3D printing right now will go away.”

Closing thoughts “I think it's important to start collaborating broader than what we are right now. This is a big, vast industry. 3D printing is growing. There are so many players that are doing unique and interesting things and there's no reason that we all need to be siloed. This is why ourselves and Mosaic have touched base early. We complement each other and I think that there's more opportunity for companies that are involved with this space across the country to reach out to us or others and figure out how we can start to empower each other to get our systems up and running

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