3D Printing of Surgical Instruments for Space Flight
Given the impracticality of resupplying a deep space exploration mission directly from Earth, additive manufacturing (aka 3-D printing) technology can provide a novel capability to fabricate hardware and instruments as-needed to generate and resupply necessary medical hardware. The team successfully designed and 3-D printed three surgical instruments : hemostat, scalpel handle (two variants for #10, #11 and #15 blades) and forceps.
The three instruments were used successfully in an animal research study with the surgeons providing feedback that the instruments offered acceptable performance. Also, the 3-D printed instruments were provided to the project’s robotics team in order to accomplish their aim of programming Robonaut 2 to perform instrument recognition, pickup, and handoff to a human surgeon.