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Jun 12

Additive Manufacturing Helps ACIST Medical Pursue Perfection

Based out of Eden Prarie, Minn., ACIST (Advanced Contrast Imaging System Technology) is a company that specializes in developing contrast injection medical systems within the fields of cardiology and radiology, allowing for the visualization of cardiovascular structures. It fulfills its mission of pursuing “the perfect image” by researching and producing new medical technologies that lend greater ease and control to physicians, ultimately providing improved patient care. ACIST relies on Stratasys' Fused Depostion Modelling (FDM) technology to quickly  create robust, accurate prototypes, expediting the design process.  Whilst additive manufacturing has clear advantages over traditional methods of product development, the company uses FDM technology to maximize efficiency far beyond rapid prototyping alone.

[caption id="attachment_714" align="aligncenter" width="529"]ACIST technology with end-use FDM parts in the operating room. ACIST technology with end-use FDM parts in the operating room.[/caption]
“We haven’t picked a single path for FDM. We like to use it everywhere. We use it for fixtures, functional testing, industrial design and end-use parts. We want to use as many FDM parts as possible in our machines that are going to market. FDM allows for putting greater complexity, form and function into one part as opposed to traditional methods.”

 - Dave Scott, Acist manufacturing engineering manager

Incorporating FDM technology within all aspects of product development affords Acist the ability to manufacture more complex end use parts, as well as incorporate user feedback into their products at a much faster rate and reduce inventory size. ACIST recently updated its EmpowerCTA® injection system, a lower-pressure injector. Of the thirty-six parts that went into the new EmpowerCTA display, seven were FDM. The product’s FDM casing is as attractive as a molded case, and FDM technology enabled Acist to design for manufacturing in a new way by combining parts and building in additional complexity, an approach that is impossible with traditional manufacturing methods. ACIST engineers designed the FDM parts around the machined parts, circuit boards and integrated circuits to optimize design for manufacturing ability; a solid, tested design is important before moving on to mold and machine parts. Specifically, if FDM technology was not incorporated into ACIST's workflow, the seven parts that now complete the display would have been 15 — more than double the parts to manufacture and stock. FDM lets Acist produce small runs and get feedback from operators before committing to expensive production molds.

[caption id="attachment_717" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Developing end-use FDM parts for the updated Empower ACT Developing end-use FDM parts for the updated EmpowerCTA[/caption]

As with any product, some improvements to ACIST's technology are not conceived until it is incorporated within the hospital. By using FDM technology,  ACIST is able to incorporate user feedback into their products at a much faster rate, meaning that end-users receive updates much quicker than with traditional manufacturing methods. For example, operators pointed out the need for multiple types of transducers to be connected to the same machine and the ability to switch rapidly from one transducer to another. ACIST quickly designed a part in CAD software to solve this problem, and printed it with a Dimension 3D Printer as a functional part to be shipped and used on machines worldwide. Furthermore, Scott emphasizes that the part, easy to create and print with additive manufacturing, would have been very challenging to mold using traditional methods.

The advantages of FDM technology reach beyond the realm physical part creation. With FDM, ACIST doesn’t have to manage shelf space or relationships with vendors - the company’s inventory is a acist3digital file on a server.  If an FDM part breaks, regardless of part age, all models are easily accessible, and ACIST simply prints a replacement on its Fortus 3D Production System or Dimension 3D Printer, and ships it the next day.

ACIST Medical Systems continues to explore how FDM can help it improve creativity and efficiency, and lower costs throughout all manufacturing aspects. No other method can handle the complex geometry and immediately produce ready-for-market parts. The technology has helped ACIST stay on the cutting edge of the medical industry, according to Scott:
"FDM is saving us time and money everywhere in our operations. We have invested so much in this technology; we really live by it. There are so many benefits to using FDM parts, but it has to become a mindset."

For similar stories on incorporating FDM technology into your workflow, and more, visit us at www.cimetrixsolutions.com