GE Healthcare: 3D-printing to be used for bioprocessing equipment from 2018

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

GE Healthcare says 3D printing can improve the performance and reliability of bioprocessing equipment as it opens a design centre in Sweden.

The 3D printing and design lab opened its doors in Uppsala, Sweden this week to make use of additive manufacturing – commonly known as 3D printing – and robotic technologies in the production of bioprocessing tools and equipment.

According to Andreas Marcstrom, manager of Additive Engineering at the site, such technologies bring a number of benefits for bioprocessing equipment.

“We believe we can improve the performance and shorten lead time with additive manufactured parts. Reducing number of parts will improve reliability and enable other benefits like lower weight of the products,”​ he told Biopharma-Reporter.

“Additive can also improve product design, as it offers more design freedom for engineers. The computer-oriented design process enables quick design iterations and it improves the design process meaning new better products reach the market quicker.”

The facility is equipped with a metal and a polymer industrial grade 3D printer, along with a heat bonding machine, and traditional manufacturing equipment. Several collaborative robots (known as ‘cobots’) will also be developed in the lab then transferred to the factories that need them.

To see more of the centre, check out this video​.

3D printing

3D printing is becoming a part of all major industries, even being used to make the US FDA-approved small molecule drug Spritam (levetiracetam),​ but we asked Marcstrom what elements of bioprocessing would suit this more-costly technology approach.

“You need to choose the parts that are suitable for 3D-printing,”​ he said. “The component has to be, for example, complicated enough, so that it makes sense to 3D-print it, or it has to bring other benefits, for example reduce the component weight without compromising the quality. In many cases, merging several parts into one is a key to improve performance to a lower cost.”

GE said it expects to start integrating the technology into its offerings from 2018.

“We are exploring more and more applications of additive manufacturing, but the technology will co-exist with other manufacturing techniques for a long time. Starting next year additive manufactured parts will be part of our products.

“The additive manufactured parts will of course be verified to meet the same quality requirements as if manufactured with traditional techniques.”

CLARIFICATION: The original article has been modified as it indicated Big Biopharma firm Amgen was integrating GE's 3D tech into its processes in 2018. While GE Healthcare is currently testing the performance of a 3D printed chromatography column with the Amgen, the services firm does not know know when Amgen will use the technology as part of its own capabilities.

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