Science Wednesday: Creating Prosthetics With 3D Printing; Who Is Killing South Africa’s Great White Sharks?

This week in Benzinga’s Science Wednesday, we visit with a 3D printing company involved in the manufacturing of prosthetics for the U.S. health care industry, and we consider environmental concerns involving great white sharks off the South African coast and at-risk species in southern Georgia.

This week in Benzinga’s Science Wednesday, we visit with a 3D printing company involved in the manufacturing of prosthetics for the U.S. health care industry, and we consider environmental concerns involving great white sharks off the South African coast and at-risk species in southern Georgia.

A 3D Solution: The global prosthetics market is estimated to register a compounded annual growth rate of 6% by 2027, according to data from Transparency Market Research, which forecasted the market share for the prosthetics market to reach a value of $15 billion in the next five years.

Within the U.S., creating domestically manufactured prosthetics rather than taking a chance on supply chain hiccups has increased the focus on 3D printing. One of the companies that has experienced an increase in the level of orders for 3D-printed prosthetics is 3DX Industries (OTC:DDDX), headquartered in Ferndale, Washington. According to Roger Janssen, the company’s president, orders for 3D-printed prosthetics accounts for 20% of its business, with the potential for greater share.

“Yes, I do see it growing,” he said. “I don’t want to put a number on it right now, but I know there’s going to be more.”

Janssen’s company works with suppliers for the health care industry who have specific requests for manufacturing.

“Although we do some engineering for our customers, we mostly build what they design,” he continued. “We manufacture parts where some medical companies are participating in prosthetics, including the different types of hip joint pieces and bone braces.”

3DX is now celebrating its tenth anniversary in business and Janssen stated that he’s observed a growing reliance on 3D printing to serve the customized needs of prosthetics, ranging from hand and limb replacements to dental procedures.

“That’s been driven by people understanding the printing more and the different technologies in the plastic world and the metal world,” Janssen said.

Janssen credited his company’s location as helping to raise its visibility within this sector.

“We have a lot of medical industry here in the Seattle industry,” he said.

“I’ve been manufacturing for 40 years in the Pacific Northwest region and a lot of people know the certain things we do. For us, it’s kind of a word of mouth, and when we find something that looks interesting to manufacture, whether it be certain bone replacement parts or whatever it might be, we fill up our workload.”

Janssen highlighted the time and cost savings of 3D printing, calling attention to a recent project that involved the manufacturing of a part needed for a prosthetic hand. If the part was created by traditional manufacturing, it could have taken up to eight weeks to complete at a cost of $1,500 per unit. Through 3D printing, however, the creation process would take up to three weeks and cost up to $150 per unit.

Janssen also recalled another project that offered a challenge he was not expecting.

“The most difficult one was a unusually long bone screw,” he said. “It was probably about 10 or 11 inches and had a very tiny hole down the center that the surgeons used to line up at the right angle when it goes into the body. In that tiny feature there would be a tiny wire that went down the center over that long distance. For us to manufacture it, that was quite a challenge.”

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Science Briefs

Orca Attack: Marine biologists in South Africa are taking on a NCIS-worthy investigation involving what appears to be a pair of orcas killing great white sharks and devouring some of their internal organs.

Nature World News is reporting that eight great white shark carcasses have washed up on beaches of South Africa’s Western Cape since 2017, with seven of the sharks missing their hearts. A recent study in the African Journal of Marine Science has theorized two orcas — also known as killer whales — were responsible for the attacks.

The great white sharks have not only been an integral part of the oceanographic ecosystem in this part of the world, but have also been an economic engine attracting thrill-seeking tourists eager to pursue cage diving. But since the orca attacks began, the presence of the sharks has declined and created new stress on the ecosystem.

It’s especially true with a new belligerence by seals that are historically preyed upon by the sharks but who are now emboldened by their predators’ absence to actively hunt endangered African penguins.

Marine biologists added that more sharks were likely to have been killed by the orcas, noting they were only made aware of the situations when the sharks’ carcasses began appearing on shore.

Identifying Georgia’s Wildlife: The Atlanta office of DS Smith plc (OTC:DITHF) has teamed with the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources on a project to identify the habitats and project the existence of at-risk animal species in southeast Georgia.

Hundreds of rare, threatened or endangered species in 15 Georgia counties are the focus of this partnership, which will identify species in the four vertebrate groups — mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles — and their dominant habitats.

“As part of our ambitious Now and Next sustainability strategy, we’ve committed to measuring and improving the biodiversity on our company-owned timberland,” said DS Smith General Manager Bill Guthrie, who directed the UGA student researchers to evaluate the habitats in the approximately 17,000 acres owned by the company, including its Riceboro papermill in Southeast Georgia.

“It’s a three-phase project that starts by evaluating the soil types and ground cover to determine if it meets what’s expected for our land,” Guthrie said.

“The second part will be a field related assessment of the flora and fauna that is on our land, and the third phase will be to bring it all together and draft ideas to improve the existing biodiversity that exists today.”

The UGA students are using multiple tools to accomplish their research, including the iNaturalist app, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History material, the Backyard Bird website, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Environmental Conservation online system and the Georgia Biodiversity Portal.

“It’s exciting to sponsor projects like these that offer students a chance to experience how corporate initiatives can translate into tangible results from a commitment to improving biodiversity and sustainability,” added Allison Berg, sustainability manager for DS Smith North America.

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Photo: RAEng Publications/Pixabay. 

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