Merck’s 3D Technologies (3DT) organisation, a division of Merck – the American multinational pharmaceutical company – is revolutionising the way the company works by using 3D printing to create innovative solutions in the discovery, development, and commercialization of medicines and vaccines for both human and animal health.
3D printing, like virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence, is rapidly growing in the organisation and has captured the attention of teams, leading the company to use 3DT products in labs, manufacturing sites, and even outer space.
“This transformative technology has continued to grow in both its capabilities and impact,” said. “It’s truly evolving to what is perhaps one of the biggest advantages in the race for innovation across life sciences and beyond.”– Marc Durante, Director of 3D Technologies, Merck
More than just printing: a hybrid approach
3DT’s engineers and inventors offer enterprise engineering, design, and fabrication capabilities, as well as traditional technologies such as injection moulding, machining, thermal forming, casting, and water jet and laser cutting. This hybrid approach enables 3DT to address unique business challenges efficiently, such as producing hard-to-find manufacturing parts or prototyping tissues and cells for novel test studies, as well as regularly transforming napkin-sketched ideas into workable designs.
“Everyone who comes to our labs for the first time is genuinely shocked at all that’s possible with our suite of 3DT capabilities at their disposal. By the time they’ve completed their first project with us, their mindset around 3D printing is forever changed,” said Durante.
Durante and his team, in fact, custom-designed the hardware for a recent Merck Research Laboratories experiment that was launched to the International Space Station. The 3D printed device, which has received praise for its ease of use, was designed to use relatively inexpensive syringes for a variety of experiments, allowing other researchers who are investigating activating chemical reactions in space to take advantage of the opportunity.
3D printing to create innovative solutions
Durante added “We’re quickly becoming the frontline for custom solutions throughout the entire company.”
With six to seven new requests per day — the majority of which are completely new inventions — and nearly 3,500 3D projects completed (a number that continues to double every year), several patents, and four labs worldwide (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ireland, and Singapore), with a fifth in the works, 3DT is a hotbed for out-of-the-box solutions and game-changing innovation (Latin America).
Some examples of the team’s work
Improving capsule filling
3DT created and printed custom grips and staging blocks to work with a robotic arm to fill capsules in early stage clinical trials. This resulted in cost savings as well as improved turnaround time and employee safety.
Illuminating drug impact on nasal peptides
3DT created nasal casts to study the patterns of inhaled drug deposition. The anatomically correct models enabled more efficient laboratory testing with greater accuracy and precision, as well as faster turnaround time on formulation decisions.
Counting sea lice in Vaki, Iceland
The expansion of salmon and trout farming in Europe, Canada, and Chile has coincided with an increase in sea lice infestations among salmon. 3DT printed housing for two biomass cameras and sea lice counting units that could withstand the pressures and temperatures of the Artic Ocean’s frigid 40-meter-plus depths.
Merck’s award-winning 3DT has proven to be a centre of excellence within our organisation while also helping to set new standards in the life sciences industry as a whole. Looking ahead, the momentum will almost certainly continue.
Durante concluded, “We’d love to get to a point where colleagues across our company feel the freedom to be their own inventor and look to 3DT from the outset to bring about the art of the possible. In the end, we’re all working toward the same goal: bringing forward our medicines and vaccines to those who need them as quickly as possible.”
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