UK doctor claims to have invented robotic 3D-printed injection needle

SheWand is designed to allow easy, repeatable, real-time delivery of the pain medication and should help ease chronic pain

Two days ago, The BBC broke the news that a German pharmacist had invented a robot that delivers painkiller injections to patients in British hospitals, using a 3D printer.

Speaking to The Guardian, Babak Malchi, 44, said she aimed to reduce patient time and fatigue by allowing patients to get an injection without needing to sit in a waiting room or in a sterile environment – a bad habit often associated with painful injections.

Can you buy a 3D printer for less than £1,000?

Yes. Just a few months ago, several home 3D printers went on sale and we expected that the trend would continue with retailers unveiling the latest top of the range home models. But so far, we have yet to see this popularity with 3D printers on sale in the UK.

The price of new 3D printers has risen dramatically in recent years, going from around £300 to more than £1,000 today. The trend seems to be down to two factors – the introduction of scanners, which is now almost completely commonplace in shops, and the consolidation of the market around a few big suppliers.

What difference is there between a 3D printer and a professional 3D printer?

While they are both very useful, these machines are best used when a 3D model is very complex, such as for making jewellery. Another important difference is that at home, machines start making objects at a rate of about 100 a week – whereas in the industry, it’s closer to thousands per month.

What is the different purpose of a professional 3D printer?

A professional 3D printer can make parts for high-volume machines, such as optical diagnostic equipment or medical instruments. It can also be used to make repair parts and to produce prototype parts for engineering and medical research for example.

How do you describe the difference between making parts with 3D printing and with more traditional methods?

Using a 3D printer, the parts can be made completely from “glass”, which allows all the features to be created with a solid surface. If one of those features needs to be printed out on a laser, an additive process is required. It involves printing the parts with mixed materials on the surface. The parts can also be added to machines via an on-board laser system. This gives plenty of flexibility and speeds up the process.

Is there any mention of 3D-printed plastics?

There is very little mention of 3D-printed plastics when it comes to the current products on the market.

Is this a problem?

For those home users who are eager to 3D print a knife (a subject close to my heart), there’s no doubt that the limited selection will cause disappointment.

It’s still possible to create objects by combining a liquid and solid to create 3D-printed plastics for now, but this is not for everyone. The pain tablets are likely to be a much easier path to 3D printing, and given the format of the box on which she Wand is displayed, it’s likely that these could well be used for pain relief in the future.

What do you think of Babak Malchi’s invention?

I have to agree with The Guardian: robots are here to stay. And instead of worrying about the trend, we should rejoice in their emergence and embrace the possibilities of smart technologies.

In the 1990s, I launched a company that developed robotics which were used in the mines, and these robots have been running at high speed for over 10 years. What I learned during this whole time was that it is not robotic control, nor the size of a product, but the application of technology, that will make a product a success. If this applies to everything, then I imagine that we won’t be calling the 2.0 computer a “robot” any time soon.

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