How HP Multi Jet Fusion technology optimizes the manufacturing process of animal ultrasound scanners

Ultrasonic devices manufactured by E.I Medical Imaging are intended for use inside the body of large animals. Since most treatments are carried out in the field, these devices must also be portable. To meet these requirements, the company provides a variety of configurations and attachments that allow physicians to perform ultrasound examinations as quickly and efficiently as possible. Thanks to HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology, it is able to significantly accelerate and optimize the production of its products.

E.I. company Medical Imaging was founded in 1984 with the vision of developing a state-of-the-art ultrasound machine for use in large animals. It now offers a full line of products and accessories and is the only US manufacturer of portable ultrasound systems for the livestock industry.

E.I. Medical Imaging supplies portable ultrasound systems to veterinarians and livestock farmers around the world. In collaboration with Avid Product Development, it undertook to redesign two of the most important accessories. Using HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology, designers were able to improve the design and performance of key parts while reducing the time and cost associated with hardware redesign.

“Injection molding has huge overhead costs,” says Pete Temple, operations manager at E.I. Medical Imaging. “We are a manufacturer, so this requires us not only to invest in expensive moulds, but also to maintain a large stock of parts. It takes a long time to realize the return on these investments.”

E.I. Medical Imaging regularly updates and improves its products. In some cases, improvements are the result of field testing and customer feedback. In others, the modifications are necessitated by changes to the electronics and other supplied components. Working with large animals usually requires a lot of mobility and being in direct sunlight. Under such conditions, a conventional ultrasound screen can be virtually invisible. To eliminate these inconveniences, E.I. Medical Imaging offers a kit that users can wear on their head while working. The i3 LED goggles are small, lightweight and compatible with all of the company’s ultrasound models. The headset offers several mounting options, including a ratchet head strap and cap clip.

“Headsets are included in about 30% of our orders,” says Temple. The goggles contain third-party electronics, and their supplier made a change that forced E.I. Medical Imaging redesign of housing components.

Using injection molding to produce the new parts would require $30,000 in new tooling and a lead time of 8-12 weeks. In addition, it would require E.I. Medical Imaging committed to producing a run of at least 700 kits, which would be almost double their annual requirement.

“Traditionally, transrectal examinations in animals are done manually. The operator introduces a gloved hand with an ultrasonic transducer to visualize the reproductive system,” says veterinarian E.I. Medical Imaging Staff, Dr. Erika Wierman. “The armless accessories make it easier to insert the probe into the arm, while increasing exam speed and animal comfort.”

An example of such an accessory is the IBEX adjustable extension, which allows clinicians to position the ultrasound transducer without having to insert their hand. The device must be both rigid and flexible to properly position the probe. In the past, E.I. Medical Imaging used a combination of injection molding and silicone casting to achieve the desired effect.

As with the headset, injection molding required significant investment in tooling and inventory. In addition, the silicone casting process was expensive and slow. More importantly, clients of E.I. Medical Imaging reported that the silicone part simply broke after repeated use. The company needed a way to accelerate hardware development without sacrificing quality or performance. The team used HP Multi Jet Fusion printing technology to redesign the parts, eliminating the need for traditional manufacturing processes that were more costly and less efficient.

Working with Avid Product Development, E.I. Medical Imaging learned about the benefits of HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printing. Unlike other additive manufacturing technologies, HP MJF produced a smooth surface finish and quality that was ideal for end parts.

Throughout the process, we also managed to produce prototypes that were functional and offered the same parameters as the final product. This allowed the parts to be tested to ensure that the product complies with legal flammability and safety requirements. The team then began work on improving the IBEX extender. The result was a product that was lighter, flexible and less susceptible to damage from the environment in which it is used.

“HP 3D printing technology has great potential to help deliver better parts, faster and at lower cost,” says Temple. “Having Avid Product Development as a trusted partner makes things even better. Additive has already saved us from inconvenience, and I’m curious to see where it will take us in the future.”

Using HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printing, E.I Medical was able to significantly reduce product development time for their new headset housing. Instead of the 8-12 weeks it would take to make new tooling, the company began producing end parts almost immediately. The ability to produce in small batches eliminated the risk of further disruptions and the cost of scrapping unused inventory.

If you are looking for the opportunity to test or purchase HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology, we encourage you to contact Integart Sp. z o. o.


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