From being a technical manager, a research assistant, a technical sales, and now an entrepreneur, Jacqui O Connor knows how to wear several hats. She has a background in Chemistry and Biomedical Engineer and founded MedScan3D in 2019, providing patient specific 3D printed model’s with applications in medical device prototyping and testing, pre surgical planning and educational purposes.

Jacqui, could you let us know briefly about your background and your journey into Additive Manufacturing?

I have a 1st class honours degree in Chemistry and a Master’s in biomedical engineering. My previous roles include working as a technical manager in a nutraceutical start up, research assistant in NUIG and a technical sales rep in an orthopeadic implant company for 5 years. My experience and academic background have given me a broad range of experience’s which I bring with me with my current venture as an entrepreneur.

I started MedScan3D in early 2019 while on maternity leave for the second time in 2 years. I was at the time working as a technical sales representative for the orthopaedic implant company, Smith and Nephew. During my 5 years working for them I got an insight to the healthcare system and the HCP requirements for safe and effective patient care. My academic background is in biomedical engineering, where I developed my skills in research and development for biomaterials and medical devices. My husband James runs a successful 3D printing company, 3D Technology, providing 3D printers, maintenance, consumables and support to medium and large-scale companies. 

While on leave I decided that I no longer wanted to return to my current sales role due to the unpredictability nature of the work, I wanted a better work life balance. So’ I began brainstorming, many times with James and with my medical sector background and his 3D printing knowledge we saw a gap in the market and MedScan3D was born. I began by dipping my toe in and quickly we realised the idea had massive potential and there was an obvious demand, especially in the medical device sector. Less than a year in we large blue chip customers and we have been shortlisted in the Med-Tech Innovations Awards in the 3D printing sector. 

Tell us more: what is MedScan3D and what is the story behind it? 

At MedScan3D, we specialise in printing highly accurate patient-specific 3D anatomical models from CT, MRI and CBCT scans. Our target user is any healthcare professionals, such as cardiologists, oncologists, surgeons – placing real anatomy in the hands of healthcare professionals reduce the patient’s risk and a more successful outcome is likely, with less unexpected issues arising in the theatre setting. With a smoother procedure the time spent in theatre is reduced and this not only increases the patient’s safety it has an array of benefits from reduced costs and savings to the hospital which can be spent elsewhere, reduction in the patient waitlists, a more successful operation leads to reduced length of stay in the hospital which will in turn reduce the patients risks of infection and saving beds for the hospital, the working environment for the staff is calmer and more efficient and much more. These models can also be used for educational purposes for the team and for the patient in question.

Having a smoother diagnostic cycle from the healthcare professional offers a safer patient procedure. 

Our models are not just for surgical planning they are also used by research engineers to provide test models for their medical devices. These medical models can be made in a variety of materials for applications in medical device prototyping and testing. Customizable medical models to suit a specific area which will optimize their testing procedures at all stages of device development. The models are geometrically designed to withstand rigorous laboratory and field use for initial concept, product development, physician product testing, manufacturing quality assurance. For ongoing device testing we can provide personalized and generically designed silicone casted models (link to Silicone casted models). Developing the right testing model is of the utmost importance for getting an implant to its most optimal stage. This in turn will provide the surgeon with the best device for treating the patient in question.

MedScan3D streamlines what is normally a complicated process and provides a full turnkey solution, all in house. This provides a quick turnaround of customisable models with no 3D printing technology limitations – which meets the demands of fast paced R&D teams. Currently there is no other company that provides all aspects of medical scan conversion, CAD design adaptation and 3D printing of patient specific models. There are companies that would do some of these processes but without the knowledge and demands of the specific research groups it would mean the customer would have to go to 3-5 separate companies to get the end-product. We pride ourselves on our consultancy basis and providing an extension to the R&D team.

To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing? 

We have been shortlisted in the Med-Tech Innovations Awards in the 3D printing sector within our first year. Unfortunately, the event has been postponed due to Covid-19 but I look forward to meeting my peers and enjoying the conference in the coming months. 

Do you have any (fun or not) story about the company or your career to share with us? 

Since Covid-19 we have been manufacturing and donating face shields as a protection for healthcare professionals nursing homes and care centers around Ireland. We have also 3D printed different ventilator connectors and parts for our hospitals. This has allowed us to feel somewhat useful during this strange time and we are very grateful that additive manufacturing can play a part during this pandemic. We have been featured on our national news and newspapers which has given my family something to be happy about 😊

Have you run into any challenges from being a woman 3D Printing? 

I do not feel I get treated any differently in meetings or groups because I am a female in a male dominated sector but of course I do notice that I am often the only woman in the room.

I have been in the science/ engineering division for many years so this is not something new for me and if anything, I am proud to be a representative for any female. But I would hate to think this dynamic would stop younger females coming into the sector and believe we need to push boundaries to ensure the statistics change.

What makes the 3D printing industry particularly interesting for you? 

I feel like the scope for 3D printing in the medical device sector is so large and untapped and this excites me. I want to be part of the bigger picture when it comes to device testing on anatomical models. Now we can bring patient specific data to bench testing which allows surgeons to get real feedback about the device they are going to use on an exact patient. This in turn will allow for a safer more efficient patient care.

What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far? 

Printing large scale models that are intricate. These models emulate the persons anatomy no matter what.

To see a full aortic model be printed in one piece is amazing and so beneficial when it comes to testing and planning.

What do you consider game-changing technologies in Additive Manufacturing?

The advancements in bioprinting is extremely exciting and the capability to now replaced machined aluminum parts with 3D printed parts which perform the same. 

Where do you think the industry will move to in the next 10 years?

More and more toward production and production aids. Companies are going to rethink how they manufacture and 3D printing will be a huge part of that. 

What advice do you have for women looking to get started in 3D Printing?

Not to be afraid to get involved, the industry is not just for males – although it is a very male dominated sector now that should only encourage you to be at the forefront and set the standard. Be on the look out to connect with other females that will inspire and support you on your journey, having a group to share the ups and downs will motivate you to continue your path to success. 

In your opinion, how could we encourage more women to become involved with Additive Manufacturing? 

From my experience of attending a lot of women in engineering talks. Key focus usually is encouraging young women to take an interest in STEAM and that it is a fulfilling sector where you can mix logical mathematics with creative design. 

Favorite 3D tool? 3D sprint – allows you to view the model is every way.

  • Favorite moment in your day job? Meeting new companies and working with them to solve an existing problem.
  • What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years? To grow our company internationally.

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