Recent article in DVM360 on my work designing products for veterinary hospitals.

Posted by Schaller Industries on Thursday, April 9, 2015

(Sneak peek at upcoming DVM360 / Veterinary Economics article)

Better Medicine With 3D Printing


After many years of applying my Aerospace Engineering education to consumer product design, development, and production, I found myself running my wife’s animal hospital. The deal was she handled the medicine and I was responsible for everything else. My design and manufacturing experience has not gone unused. Our inventory is completely paperless, not a clipboard on the premises. Weekly purchase orders are generated and emailed in under 10 minutes. We have paperless records, documented processes, large flat screen monitors and computers everywhere.

With my background, I adopted the “I don’t do medicine” approach to my responsibilities at our hospital. However, between flu outbreaks and military spouse employee turnover I found myself enduring two weeks of requests like ‘hold this patient’, ‘put a warming blanket on that patient’, ‘put the Doppler on this patient’. Resistance was indeed futile. I started identifying the need for products that in many cases just did not exist. With the explosion of affordable 3D printers on the market, Willow Creek Animal Hospital purchased one.

Picture of Cuff Syringe Holder product in place on anesthesia machine
1. Slips on top of the Surgivet Anesthesia machine.

My experiences as a substitute ‘tech’ are as follows. Day one (and day two), as I heard the doctor say ‘get the cuff syringe, now, I need it now’ the idea for the Cuff Syringe Holder formed. Day three, the Cuff Syringe Holder was designed, printed, and in place atop the anesthesia machine (pic 1). I even added space for two syringes just in case the first one didn’t get back when the endotracheal tube was inflated. Problem solved.

Day four I assembled the cage pass through device for the patient warmer. Baggy of fasteners (one missing), worn looking gasket, and two fittings went onto the cage as I wondered what I was thinking when I approved this purchase. Then, we needed that cage for a known chewer. Off came the fasteners, gasket, and fittings. That night I was back at the computer designing what is now the Heater Holder (pictures Step1, Step2, & Step3). Day five, with my new single piece Heater Holder I had the warmer hooked up in under 30 seconds. The nursing staff was impressed but my doctor was floored. She couldn’t believe this idea removed all the hassle of in kennel warming. The benefit to our patients, with zero hesitation to pull out the stuff and hook up the warmer, has been significant. This problem was not only solved, it has increased the standard of care for all of our post op patients. (It has also led to the budding small business working to get these Heater Holders into every hospital.)


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The next week I witnessed the Dentalaire machine caught, then forcibly drug over the delicate air lines (pic 2). This was something I had heard our dental tech training our staff on during team meetings more than once. With a couple of measurements, I printed the Hose Holder that night (pic 3). Another simple solution to avoid expensive repairs.

Next I was helping set up the surgery suite and asked if we had something to hold the warming hose on the table. “I’m not paying $90 for the wire hoop in that catalog, use a leash or tape it to the table” was my doctor’s response. The first iteration allowed the heater hose to snap into place perfectly. The second generation had a feature added just for me. Our anesthesia hose now snaps into place. It’s a little OCD but I’m sleeping better now. Another item soon to be on the list is a custom fit spoon splint model. The patient can be measured with a caliper on intake, the splint model quickly updated, and the print job kicked off that morning. By the time their discharge appointment rolls around they have a custom fitted splint.

Our 3D printer has quickly become a necessary piece of equipment. The ability to model products using software is a design skill set I brought with me. As printers become even more attainable, simpler less expensive software apps will soon follow. Keep watch because at the current pace of technology, this may be only a few years away.

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