Rapid tooling using 3D printing system for manufacturing of customized tracheal stent

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Purpose - This work aims to present the design of a new continuous tool-path strategy for open-source low-cost fused deposition modeling (FDM) machines, such as Fab±Home or RepRap; and the development of an innovative integrated tool to design and fabricate customized tracheal stents with any FDM machine and six patient parameters. Both contributions were validated and implemented by obtaining a customized medical-grade silicone tracheal stent. Design/methodology/approach - For the design of the new deposition strategy, a Python programming language was used. The new tool-path strategy was proposed as a continuous path to avoid drops and gaps and to improve the accuracy of the final model. Meanwhile, patient parameters were obtained by medical doctors and introduced into the innovative integrated system. On the one hand, one mold generated automatically, and viewed with Matlab® software, was fabricated with a Fab±Home machine, optimized with the continuous tool-path strategy. On the other hand, the same generated mold was viewed in SolidWorks/Excel software and was fabricated using a commercial FDM machine. Finally, the mold was filled with medical grade silicone, and a silicone tracheal stent was obtained. Findings - Path planning for extrusion technologies is still a major concern, especially for open-source FDM machines. The results obtained in this work show the benefits of applying the newly developed continuous tool-path strategy to optimize the performance and efficiency of these machines. In addition, the proposed innovative integrated system allows the fabrication of customized tracheal stents rapidly and affordably. Practical implications - The possibility of obtaining customized tracheal stents is a worthy challenge. Medical doctors could play a more active role and interact during the design process, helping to obtain more suitable stents. The method proposed herein would provide the opportunity to obtain real values from the trachea of a patient in the operating room and quickly fabricate a customized stent that would fit the patient's trachea perfectly. Originality/value - The results obtained in this work are relevant and have future applications in both the medical and the additive manufacturing fields. The optimized tool-path strategy can help to improve and enhance the use of low-cost FDM machines. Moreover, the innovative automatic design approach to fabricate tracheal stents may open new market opportunities in the medical device field ​
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