R&D boost for 3D-printed biomed implants

German testing, inspection and certification company TUV SUD has signed a memorandum of understanding with the National University of Singapore Centre for Additive Manufacturing to promote research and development into 3D-printed biomedical implants.

This comes at a time when additive manufacturing technologies are lowering the cost and time needed for rapid prototyping.

The centre aims to apply 3D printing in personalised patient treatments, as well as in fabricating metal implants for clinical trials.

It is important to meet global standards while developing patient-specific medical products, centre director Jerry Fuh Ying-Hsi said yesterday.

The agreement was signed at the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (Namic) summit, part of the three-day Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific trade show taking place this week.

Speaking at the opening of the summit, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said additive manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing could reduce the prototyping cost and "time to market" for products. For example, 3D-printed clear aligners for teeth straightening by local start-ups Structo and Zenyum are priced at $2,200, compared with the market price of $6,000 to $10,000.

He added that agencies are also introducing standards to guide the development and adoption of such technologies.

The Singapore Standards Council, overseen by Enterprise Singapore, published a new technical reference yesterday that it developed with the Ministry of Defence, the Singapore Armed Forces and other stakeholders. It is the first of four references to be launched by the end of next year to provide requirements and guidelines for the use of additive manufacturing in military and non-military applications here.

Mr Chee also noted the need for cooperation among companies amid frequent disruptions in industries. TUV SUD, he said, is setting up its Industrial Additive Manufacturing Centre of Excellence in Singapore, which is expected to launch early next year. It will provide skills development programmes and assessment tools.

German conglomerate Siemens, which is opening an Additive Manufacturing Experience Centre here, is partnering Namic in a one-year industry transition programme to bridge the gap between research and development and implementation for additive manufacturing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2019, with the headline 'R&D boost for 3D-printed biomed implants'. Print Edition | Subscribe