Dr. Ruchi Pathak Kaul is the founder of Reconstructive Health Care Solutions Pvt Ltd , a start-up based in India. They help to change the lives of patients by providing surgical solutions using 3D Technology. Ruchi got the award of Maxillofacial Surgeon of the Year in 2018 by Trinity Media & Marketing for her efforts in using 3D Printing Technology for maxillofacial injuries. She is a maxillofacial surgeon and a Member of Royal College of Surgeons & Physicians, Glasgow. She is currently pursuing a PhD on medical applications of 3D Printing.
She has authored more than 18 Research articles with a focus on maxillofacial reconstruction.
She was awarded the prestigious Women Scientist Fellowship by the Government of India in 2015 for research on facial reconstruction. Her continued pursuits in research and entrepreneurship resulted in the Government of India awarding her with BIRAC-BIG grant in 2018, which is a seed grant for product development. She has spoken on various national and international forums on facial reconstruction with one of her keynote lectures on 3D Printing in Madrid, Spain.
Ruchi, could you let us know about your background and what brought you to 3D printing in the first place?
Professionally I am a maxillofacial surgeon with my post-graduate experience predominantly being maxillofacial trauma. The cases ranged from mild to the most critical injuries of the face. I was associated with the premiere institute of India, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi for my training which exposed me to severe injury patients with no further recourse on treatment for facial deformities. The plight of such patients encouraged me to look for options to help them and I encountered 3D Printing Technology as a viable option.
Can you describe your very first experience with 3D Printing?
My first experience with 3D printing was while exploring surgical options for a severe facial deformity case. The conventional CT scans gave us a 2D view which led to the surgical consensus that the case is inoperable. I persisted for options and got a 3D model printed which completely changed our perspective of approaching the case. What was complicated and inoperable based on CT scans suddenly had the potential of multistage planned surgeries. It is from here that I really understood how 3D Printing and its application could be a blessing for such patients who were not taken up due to the severity and complexity of their defects.
What are some of the specific challenges of developing designs for maxillofacial implants? How Does 3D printing help?
Fundamentally, the curvatures needed for restoring facial deformities are complex and require medical understanding of internal facial anatomy and their function. For relatively fresh injuries, if the treatment is done at the right time, conventional plates are good enough to restore the defects. In the case of secondary deformities due to delay in treatment and bone loss or cancer and tumor defects, 3D Printing not only helps to replicate similar anatomy but also restores function and drastically improves the quality of life of patients in a very short period of time at the almost same cost.
Do you have any (fun or not) story about the company or your career to share with us?
The formation of my company itself was fun. As a researcher, I was trying to develop a product using 3D Printing technology as a portion of it. I just sort of told a friend of mine about my aspirations and together we applied for a seed grant taking me as an individual applicant. We failed to secure that grant the first time with the committee explaining that we didn’t submit it as a company. Basically this forced us to open a company in order to make this product and acquire the grant. It was unbelievable when we actually were able to secure the grant just with this change!! This was the stepping stone of my entrepreneur journey. What started as a novice idea for a patient eventually fruition into setting up a company!
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman in 3D Printing?
We still have a long way to go but till now I haven’t experienced any challenges due to gender bias so it is too early to comment on the same. There have been many as a surgeon but none till now in 3D Printing.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
All applications of 3D Printing are impressive and a lot of them are impactful but as my inclination is on the Medical aspect, I love virtual surgical planning as being the most impactful as it can be implemented for masses. It can be incorporated for all at just one time cost of the software but solve many problems and make complex surgeries simpler.
What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?
Well, I would say Metal 3D Printing with complex designs is a definite game-changing technology bringing about the fourth industrial revolution.
What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you:
- As a surgeon?
Cranio-maxillofacial Implants design
- As a woman?
I love the automobile and toy industry, the creativity is endless.
What do you think of the 3D printing industry today? And how would you like to see it evolve?
3D Printing industry was already into the automobile and other sectors but its application to the medical sector is just increasing and studies are being done across the world to measure the impact of utilizing this technology. Very soon, we will have the results of good studies that are being conducted across specialties worldwide. We are now soon going to see 4D Printing evolving in the near future. Seeing Bioprinting evolve where one could print organs would be overwhelming.
In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with 3D Printing?
Promoting 3D Printing sessions on platforms like women in STEM would definitely gear up involvement and active participation of women scientists in this industry. Besides this conducting more workshops for women to educate them and make them aware of the potential of 3D Printing with their routine works. Work needs to be done at grass root levels.
Favorite 3D tool (could be a software, machine, material…you name it)?
Geomagic tool and software.
Favorite moment in your day job?
Setting up final implant designs and see them done. It is like a dream come true. Its visualization turning into reality which at times seems science fiction.
What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years?
I have to set up my 3D Printing Laboratory and Research unit. The eventual endgame is to make it cost-effective and available to the masses.
Another inspiring woman you’d like us to interview?
Dr. Sushma Sagar