Fortunately, there are more people dedicating effort to resolve many of those obstacles that still exist. One such individual is Guangmei Wu. She is the director of 3D Printing Asia Programs at Johnson & Johnson. In her position, Wu works on answering the questions companies have about the use of 3D printing in medtech and attempts to provide real-world solutions.
More specifically, Wu is responsible for evaluating and executing technical strategies and new technologies for integration into Johnson & Johnson's businesses. Before joining the firm, she established a startup company, working closely with hospitals in China, to develop surgical template guides with 3D printing technology. Wu graduated with a Master of Science degree in Advanced Materials from the University of Bolton, UK, and earned a Ph.D. in Material Science from the Technical University of Berlin, Germany. She is based in Shanghai, China.
MPO had the privledge of being able to spend some time with Guangmei Wu to inquire about her efforts involving 3D printing for the medtech space, the challenges she is attempting to resolve, and where she sees the technology headed.
Sean Fenske: I’m not sure people are even aware J&J has a dedicated 3D printing division. Can you share some insights on what the focus for this unit is?
Guangmei Wu: We do, in fact, have a fully dedicated 3D printing team. We act as an “innovation hub” within Johnson & Johnson to leverage the company’s breadth and scale to incorporate 3D printing across our businesses. Our work in 3D printing (3DP) is geared toward evolving the way we create and deliver personalized products and solutions for patients, surgeons, and consumers.
Fenske: What are some of the current challenges the division is facing or what problems is it attempting to solve related to 3D printing and how are these being addressed?
Wu: One of our biggest goals as an organization is to serve patients on a global scale with more speed, efficiency, and personalization. 3D printing holds promise to help us achieve that by making products closer to the customer, regardless of where they are in the world. So, in many ways, the problem 3D printing solves is improved access to healthcare products and solutions, along with greater efficiencies in terms of production, assembly, and supply chain.
Fenske: What drew you to become interested in 3D printing? What steps did you take that found you in this space?
Wu: Before I joined Johnson & Johnson, I was oriented by surgeon friends to some of the current 3D printing technology innovations in the medical device industry. We collaborated on using 3D printing technology to develop anatomical models for pre-operative surgical planning, as well as surgical templates and patient-specific instrumentation in an effort to improve the precision and clinical outcomes of surgical procedures. When those surgeons told me about the many benefits of the 3D printed templates, I made up my mind to work more on 3DP medical applications.
Fenske: In what healthcare sectors is 3D printing having the greatest/most interesting impact?
Wu: At Johnson & Johnson, we are working hard toward making the impossible possible with 3D printing. We have already achieved a lot within our medical device and consumer businesses—recently debuting a 3D printed facemask and the use of 3D printing to make customized surgical tools where we can print the entire, fully functional instrument at once. These are some examples and there is certainly much more we are working on within the 3D printing space, including bioprinting and tissue regeneration, which are really exciting potential new frontiers for the technology that we are actively pursuing through research and strategic collaborations.
Fenske: In what healthcare sectors do you see the most potential in the near future for 3D printing?
Wu: 3D printing may dramatically change the way we treat patients at point of care—where we are actively working on providing customized solutions delivered at or near the hospital. Through 3D anatomical modeling and on-demand solutions, 3D printing may allow providers to improve outcomes with greater use of personalized solutions and shorten surgical time.
Fenske: What industry-wide challenges are concerns that are currently “holding back” the potential for 3D printing in healthcare?
Wu: Commercializing the technology is an industry-wide challenge because this is new territory with emerging and yet-to-be-developed regulatory frameworks. And these frameworks will need to be addressed on a global scale as well. So regulatory processes are one important challenge we are working hard to address.
Fenske: Can you discuss any medtech/healthcare projects involving 3D printing in which you are involved?
Wu: Currently we are working on a personalized surgical instrument for an orthopedic surgery that is in high demand in the China healthcare market. We are also working in the trauma space. With 3D printing technology, we can provide critical virtual planning to help guide these cases. There are so many advancements in development that promise to improve patient’s lives.
Fenske: Where do you see 3D printing headed? What’s coming for 3D printing in healthcare in the next 5 to 10 years?
Wu: To expand on what I mentioned previously, one area of 3D printing where we are investing is in bioprinting, so we may be able to recreate the complex structure of living cells using 3D printing technology-based applications. A new class of implants may exist in the future which contain bioprinted materials to help regenerate tissue, potentially changing how we treat degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis.
Another exciting aspect of 3D printing is the ability to create products that were previously unattainable through traditional manufacturing. In the future, we could see 3D printing applications in personalized medicines and innovations in vision care.
Fenske: Do you have any additional comments or thoughts you’d like to share?
Wu: This is an incredibly exciting time to be involved in this research and development work as we look to expand our capabilities in 3D printing and discover new ways the technology can allow us to better serve patients, surgeons, and consumers, both now and in the future. 3D printing’s potential to disrupt and transform healthcare is vast. We are excited and honored to be a part of this work we think will revolutionize healthcare and delivery of healthcare services for people all around the world.