As Steve Jobs once said, “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” And that’s what I have found at axial3D. I joined axial3D to lead the marketing function in November, so I’m not part of the furniture just yet... But even coming in fresh, you can tell when you’ve found a team of people working hard to make a real difference in people's lives across the world.
It’s been an exhilarating few months at axial3D. When I first joined, I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to have joined at a time when there was so much happening. From events, investments, and awards, each week has been incredibly rewarding. And, working in a small team, you really see the impact and value that comes from the phone calls you have, emails you send and conversations you’re part of.
Everything I’ve seen, heard and done since joining axial3D has reinforced my belief that 3D printing is fast becoming the new standard in medical imaging. I’ll explain why below, but first, I’m going to take you on a short history lesson.
We’re witnessing yet another shift in how people and machines co-exist - the Fourth Industrial Revolution as some say. Millions of us are using voice assistant devices in our homes, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, and the financial sector is being overhauled through BlockChain technology. And, the Medical Imaging sector is no different. ‘Disruptive tech’ existed even before the first x-ray was discovered in 1895 - even if it wasn’t known as such!
Medical Imaging officially took off in the 1920s, almost 30 years after x-rays were first discovered. Although there were many improvements to x-ray techniques over the first half of the 20th century, early x-rays subjected patients to 50 times more radiation than a standard x-ray today. Not exactly the healthiest way to treat people…
Then, in the 1960s, computer-based image analysis, and the development of sonar during World War II, paved the way for ultrasound scanning which significantly reduced the need to subject the body to harmful x-rays. A decade later we welcomed the computed tomography (CT) scanner, leading to enhanced imagery, smaller radiation doses, and better record storage. CT scanning, alongside magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning, has since been the norm in medical imaging for hospitals across the world.
More recent technology advancements have even allowed surgeons to recreate 3D visualizations of their patient's anatomy on screen, and in some cases in virtual reality giving them more insight into the problem. However, even this has its limitations when compared to holding a 3D replica in your hands. After all, we live in a physical world.
Now that the history lesson in medical imaging is over, I’ll get to my point…
As technology has advanced, so too has our trust in using it. The insurgence of computing across healthcare centers has enabled doctors to diagnose and treat patients much faster and more accurately than through traditional methods alone.
Of all of the new technologies that have the potential to transform healthcare, one of the newest and most exciting is undoubtedly 3d printing. This technology is no longer the territory of hobbyists who want to print out their favorite cartoon characters, it is a disruptive technology with a broad range of applications in many sectors, not least in medicine.
3D printing has allowed surgeons and radiologists across the world to take multiple 2D images of a patient scan and make it a real, tangible object that can be used to give insight into a pathology that is not possible with conventional 2D and 3D CT or MRI visualizations.
axial3D has combined two of the most disruptive and discussed technologies - 3D printing and Artificial Intelligence - and has made it easy for any healthcare professional, in any part of the world, to create a patient-specific 3D printed model.
The process of ordering a 3D printed model through axial3D is as simple as ordering items on Amazon Prime, mostly down to the development team who have created an easy-to-use, web-based platform. axial3D’s solutions have made 3D printing accessible to healthcare by reducing barriers to entry and making it easier to obtain. Speaking to EMBL recently, our CTO said, “Even if you’ve written the most powerful algorithm available, if no one can work out how to use it, it may as well not exist.”
I believe that 3D printing is fast becoming the new standard in medical imaging. Technological advances such as axial3D’s work involving Machine Learning and companies like Formlabs bringing accessible desktop printers to the market have allowed the production of 3D printed models to become cheaper, more reliable, and easier to obtain for healthcare centers.
In fact, by 2023, medical 3D printing is expected to grow year on year by more than 23% and become one of the major trends in the global 3D printing market, largely down to the increasing adoption of 3D printing technology by medical professionals.
Feedback shows that surgeons have needed to spend less time in the operating theater thanks to the insight provided by having access to 3D printed models prior to surgery. Similarly, patients (and their families) have noted a much clearer understanding of the issue prior to undergoing operations when 3D printed models have been used in pre-operative discussions.
In some cases, 3D replicas of patient’s tumors have been printed, to give them a real, physical sense of what they are fighting and why they need to go through treatment; and once those discussions have been had, they smash the tumor to bits, giving the patient power over their internal illness.
Thoughts so far?
axial3D has some impressive accolades under its belt already. From being recognized as one of NVIDIAs hottest European AI Startups 2018, to winning Emerging MedTech company of the Year 2018 and TCTs Healthcare Application 2018. The firm has also recently formed partnerships with international health centers such as Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare in the USA and University Hospital Basel, in Switzerland - showing the demand for 3D printed models is boundless.
Everyone who joins axial3D has to select a company character, print it, and post-process it before it joins the other company characters in the display case. (Fun Fact: I created an alien from Tim Burton’s cult classic film, Mars Attacks!). Not only is it wildly exciting to watch your model being printed, but it's also a smart way to introduce and immerse new members in the technology that is central to axial3D operations.
Of course, all of the above is widely exciting, but at the core of all the impressive ‘fun’ stuff is something that not many companies are able to do… Create solutions that make it easier and safer for surgeons and health centers to do what they do best, treat and improve the lives of patients.
Thanks for reading. You can reach out to me at r.kyle@axial3D.com to discuss medical 3D printing and epic movies from the 90s.