Choosing the Full Digital Process From 3D Scanning to 3D Printing: The Invent Medical Story
September 23th – 2020
In this episode of the TechMed 3D Podcast, we talked to Jan Rosicky, who’s in charge of business development at Invent Medical in the Czech Republic. This family-owned company chose to go through the full digital process from 3D scanning to 3D printing!
Here is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Kate Stern. I’m here with Jan Rosicky, who’s in charge of business development at Invent Medical. Jan is speaking to us from Ostrova, in the Czech Republic. How are you today Jan?
Jan Rosicky. Hello, I’m good. Thank you for having me.
Kate Stern. No problem. So Jan, what is Invent Medical?
Jan Rosicky. Invent Medical is the team behind a truly new generation of patient-specific 3D-printed orthotic and prosthetic devices. Our goal is to democratize the potential of advanced 3D printing to all clinicians. So both clinicians and patients can benefit. You see, each of our products comes with a user-friendly software platform, which we developed to make configuring, ordering, and receiving the final product especially easy.
So Invent Medical wasn’t created from thin air. It is actually a spin-off of two original individual companies. So the first company is a traditional O&P manufacturer and distributor. The second is an O&P clinic where we serve over 10,000 patients each year. So we are based on over 30 years of technical know-how in O&P, combined with 10 years of clinical experience.
You know, our CEO, my father (we are a family company), who founded these companies, was originally a mechanical engineer. He went on to become a CPO. He found a love and a great taste for combining technology from various industries to advance the O&P field. So he actually started, with the team, to experiment with various 3D-printing technologies about 10 years ago. Five years ago, we saw so much potential that we decided to start a new company that would be really specifically focused on developing these new-generation products, by utilizing this fully digital process, from 3D scanning to 3D printing.
Kate Stern. A lot to unpack there! First of all, I want to clarify: when you say CPO, is that a certified podiatrist?
Jan Rosicky. Yes, prosthetists and orthotists. But it can also be podiatrists that I’m talking about.
Kate Stern. That’s really interesting that your dad went from mechanical engineer to being a podiatrist-orthotist combination. What made him make the leap?
Jan Rosicky. It’s actually a long story. He used to work at a university. He was teaching there and after the revolution in the Czech Republic (we had a communist regime, of course, and finally it fell), my dad wanted to start a company. So he started a company with my two uncles. One of them was living in the US, so they started to trade different goods, one of which was orthotic products. My dad, as an engineer, said “I can make this better and cheaper.” That’s how he started, slowly. Then he went on to study and become a certified CPO, and he even taught at the university. Some of our employees and colleagues are his former students.
Kate Stern. Wow!
Jan Rosicky. So he’s really a truly self-made man. It’s not a one-man show either though, he has built a great team. We are so happy to have such innovative smart people working together on design and software in clinics. It’s really the strength of our company, and I believe it’s really unique about Invent Medical that we have a really multi-disciplinary approach. Trust me, sometimes it’s very difficult to put this all together and make designers and software developers talk to clinicians because they all use a different language.
Kate Stern. Mm-hmm. I want to know some examples of how you’ve seen the difference; like, something where you took a traditional product that wasn’t working and made it a lot better with the, as you said, “design freedom.”
Jan Rosicky. I wouldn’t say that it “wasn’t working,” but one of our flagship products is the cranial orthosis. We actually run the largest cranial remolding clinic in Europe, so we’ve seen a lot of challenges first-hand with the standard product. We are actually—the original company is the manufacturer of the original or the traditional products. So we actually made a list of what we don’t like about the products.
Just to introduce [the topic of] the cranial remolding orthosis, it’s to treat the flathead, the position/deformities with very young babies. We are forming the head shape to correct it. A really big issue was with the comfort of the baby. There was too much sweating, too much heat, it was too bulky and heavy. So our goal was with 3D printing to really improve this product, to make it much more comfortable for children, but also for clinicians.
You know, we’ve seen, as our clinicians struggle, and really how the training takes so long, how the adjustment takes a lot of clinical time, and also the reporting of the treatment progress, of analyzing the data. So we built not only a next-generation product, where we see a huge improvement in function, comfort, and aesthetics, but we also built around software that helps us manage all these processes.
We can offer it as an end-to-end solution for our customers, which really streamlines all the processes. They can offer products that are desirable for their patients, which make their lives better through increased comfort.
They also help them save up to 50% of the clinical time because, with 3D printing, we suddenly can make products that are much easier to adjust, much easier to work with. And that achieves much more controlled outcomes. So really here with 3D printing, we achieved a lot of value.
We used 3D printing as a tool, but it really unlocked a lot of potentials.
Kate Stern. That’s a really great story: taking a device that was uncomfortable, making it more comfortable, and saving your clinicians time.
Jan Rosicky. Yes, that’s really important. We really need to think more about using the clinicians’ time efficiently.
Kate Stern. And are you using Techmed 3D solutions to do that sort of thing?
Jan Rosicky. Techmed 3D is our preferred 3D-scanning partner, especially for the cranial part of the business. Both at our own clinic and to our customers, we recommend the Techmed solution. You know, we actually tested like 12 or 14 3D scanners. We are very big on testing, and we like to do a lot of research. And truth be told, no scanner is good at everything. The level of precision goes against ease of use and cost. It really comes down to software.
As we did this research online, we bumped into TechMed 3D many times. What we always liked about TechMed is their mission to make 3D scanning accessible and easy to use, while improving outcomes through advanced software. We really like that TechMed is pretty much doing the same thing for 3D scanning as we are trying to do for 3D printing: to take advanced technology and make it very easy to use and accessible for all clinicians. So that’s really what I would say is crucial in our industry. Then we actually met your boss and some other people in Switzerland at a 3D scanning exhibition, and that’s where we learned TechMed has not only great professionals but amazing people with a meaningful mission and the right approach, and there’s simply nothing better. So we use multiple TechMed 3D scanners ourselves, we recommend them to our customers, and it’s a really great fit because, for our business model, it’s completely crucial to have a strong 3D-scanning partner.
“We really like that TechMed is pretty much doing the same thing for 3D scanning as we are trying to do for 3D printing: to take advanced technology and make it very easy to use and accessible for all clinicians. So that’s really what I would say is crucial in our industry. “
Kate Stern. I’m glad to hear that. What did you do to test these dozen or so different solutions?
Jan Rosicky. We actually have a couple of systematic tests. What I would say is that one of the things that my dad introduced to the company a mechanical engineering approach to very systematic testing, which I think is not very [typical] in our industry. So we have very systematic, controlled tests. That’s one part of testing, but you know the other part of testing is really, just, you know, try to scan the moving baby—they’re young babies, they move a lot—and with TechMed it was just easy, it was a matter of a few seconds, and we got great outcomes. So for us, it was actually a no-brainer. We used several different scanners before, and now we are very happy.
Kate Stern. Wow, that shows what a mechanical engineer can do when they start a new business and bring in some systematized testing.
Jan Rosicky. Yeah.
I would say the main strength of our company is its team. It’s really a team of professionals that are extremely talented, hard-working, even award-winning. There is a really unique combination of design, software, automation, production, and clinical teams working together and doing something that we call lean iterative development.
I’ll give you an idea of what that is if you’re interested. Our design and software team meet each Monday with the clinical team, and we discuss what is good about the products and what could be improved, and by the end of the week, we will already have an improved product, the prototype, that is tested with the patient and ready for another week, for another round of feedback. So these are called iterations, and we have actually done hundreds of these iterations with each of our products, to fine-tune them and optimize them really well. So the secret is in numbers, in the systematic approach.
We believe that we need to do hundreds of the same products with 3D printing to really understand it and get it right. So we develop only products that we have a detailed knowledge of, and that we can the first-hand test with our patients internally.
Kate Stern. So what sort of products would those be?
Jan Rosicky. Currently, we have four product lines. It’s custom foot orthotics, the cranial remolding orthoses, the pediatric SMO-AFO, and protective sports masks for athletes.
Kate Stern. And it sounds like you’ve been involved in this business since you were born?
Jan Rosicky. Haha, actually the original company was founded the same year I was born. But really that’s my father’s work.
Kate Stern. Oh, no way.
Jan Rosicky. I joined about five years ago, but yeah, my father has been in the business for 30 years. And now all the companies together have about 70 people. We also founded a branch of the company in the US a few years ago. Our goal is really to go global and be international and be the number-one in these custom 3D-printed products.
Kate Stern. Is your US arm of the operation also Invent Medical?
Jan Rosicky. Yes, it is. Invent Medical USA. As well, it is a family company, as I said, so we also have some family members working with us. But more and more US professionals, that we are very lucky to be working with, are joining us.
Kate Stern. Mm. And where is that based?
Jan Rosicky. The US branch is primarily based in Pennsylvania, but we have colleagues in different states as well.
Kate Stern. Cool! I wanted to know more about what you’re doing with 3D printing, and specifically what you think the impacts are of 3D printing for the O&P market.
“We believe that we need to do hundreds of the same products with 3D printing to really understand it and get it right. So we develop only products that we have a detailed knowledge of, and that we can the first-hand test with our patients internally.”
Jan Rosicky. So one in three custom-made O&P products are set to be 3D printed within the next six years, which is quite impressive. Although actually, you know, it’s not crazy, because already over 400,000 custom medical products are printed daily.
So why we think it’s that way, is that current O&P devices are often not meeting the expectations of patients, especially [among] the younger generation. We see that our industry is not really utilizing the available technology to improve what we do. Instead, we as an industry settled on processes and products that haven’t really significantly changed in decades.
So the number-one benefit that 3D printing is offering is design freedom. What that means is that we can, for the first time, design products that were never possible to manufacture before. When we combine these capabilities with the right design, with the tested design, we can make truly innovative products, with major improvements in function, comfort, and aesthetics. That is why we believe that 3D printing and 3D scanning will be mainstream. Moreover, this technology—the same as with, for example, phones and computers—will always be getting better and cheaper. This guarantees nice stability and predictability of costs to payers.
This will also have implications for the role of the CPO. It will change—you know, it’s already changing, but it will be more and more of a clinical role, and less about manufacturing. Most of the manufacturing will definitely be outsourced, and there will be fewer and easier adjustments to the products during the treatment.
With 3D printing, there’s so much hype about it. Just because something is 3D printed, doesn’t mean it’s better.
Bear in mind that “3D printing” is a name for almost ten different technologies. There’s so many of them, and they vary in price, speed, materials, mechanical properties… Most people know of FDM (fused deposition modeling), the desktop printer, but it’s really not suitable, reliable technology to produce great O&P devices. I believe the O&P industry needs to go beyond FDM machines and utilize the real opportunity that 3D printing offers, such as HP for example.
Kate Stern. What do you see as the future of Invent Medical?
Jan Rosicky. You know, for us, our goal and ambition are to become the number one global provider of 3D-printed custom orthotic and prosthetic devices and to offer a full portfolio of O&P products. So we want to revolutionize our industry [in a way that] both patients and professionals will benefit. And we definitely want to get more into smart products: into telemedicine, into sensors, into real, evidence-based light data treatment. So that’s where we see the future.
On a more personal note, our goal is to work with the best people in the industry, which means our colleagues, our partners, our customers together to develop the industry further, and, you know, enjoy it, and follow our motto, which is Helping through innovation.
Kate Stern. Perfect! That’s an admirable mission. Well thank you so much Jan, it was a pleasure having you.
Jan Rosicky. Thank you.