Funny, just the other day I posted about a cool 3D printing case study in which Kohler is 3D printing its new tap range. In my post, I referenced the oft-quoted, but also over-stated example that many people use, of surgeons 3D printing body parts right n the operating theater.

Well, it’s not quite that extensive, but 3D systems are keen to push out on the “3D printing for healthcare” theme and are announcing today a distribution partnership between themselves and Stryker that relates to craniomaxillofacial surgery. Stryker may be a name that doesn’t mean much to many people, but back when I worked as a paramedic, I used Stryker’s stretchers all the time. Compared to regular ambulance stretchers, the futuristic-looking Stryker offering was easier to use, more flexible and generally a better product.

Stretchers were my only interaction with the Stryker company, but suffice it to say that Stryker is one of the world’s leading medical technology companies that offers products and services in the Orthopedics, Medical and Surgical, and Neurotechnology and Spine fields. As such, the promise (and, some might suggest, threat) of 3D printing is very much of relevance to them.

The guts of the deal

The deal between 3D System and Stryker is a five-year distribution partnership specifically relating to 3D Systems’ Virtual Surgical Planning offering. Geographically, the partnership is specific to the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia.

It’s a big deal for 3D Systems since it is an endorsement of both their ability to deliver a product and service but also the importance of new technological approaches to the medical field generally.

So, what is this VSP thing?

Virtual Surgical Planning is, as the name indicates, a way of working that gives surgeons more advanced and more patient-specific methods to prepare for surgery. As such it very much falls into the personalized health area. Instead of planning surgery using generic anatomical models, 3D printing is used as an integral part of the surgical process. The surgeon initiates the process, bringing their clinical knowledge and desired surgical plan to an online web meeting with a 3D Systems biomedical engineer to simulate and plan the surgical procedure. The outcome is a digital plan that is transferred to the operating room via accurate 3D printed patient-specific models, guides, and templates.

Going all-in with Stryker

One interesting business aspect of this news is that 3D Systems already had some distribution partnerships in place with other companies. In a hint at the longer term prospects of what this deal might deliver, 3D Systems has agreed to shut out all other distributors and concentrate solely on the Stryker relationship. They’re also strongly indicating an intention to move beyond craniomaxillofacial (which, for those not up on their anatomy, refers to the skull, jaw and facial areas. In particular, there seems a keenness to explore how 3D printing can be applied to spinal surgery – something tells me that Stryker may well be part of that journey, as well.


Well, it’s not printing replacement bones in theater, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction and shows how 3D printing is being applied to real-world use cases today. It’s a good win for 3D Systems and helps them to scale their medical business, and it’s a good bet for Stryker who needs to keep upping the ante when it comes to applying technology to the medical field.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

1 Comment
  • Thanks for the useful info! It is always hard to predict exactly which trends will become the most disruptive. When most people think about technology, they often think about physical devices that are electrical or digital, but in fact technology encompasses far more than that. I know one reliable local company Beta Solutions in Auckland. They offer full-service electronic engineering consultancy and provide a range of mechanical services. Many useful technological innovation were implemented with their help, including 3D printed full working production-ready models and software.

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