3D print firm in pioneering NHS project wins £860k backing

A Burnley company which is pioneering the use of 3D printing to produce made-to-measure insoles for the NHS has secured a £860,000 investment from The North West Fund for Venture Capital and Lancashire’s Rosebud Fund.

3D printingUsing the system being developed by FDM Digital Solutions, hospitals will be able to scan a patient’s foot shape and email it to the company,which will then print and deliver insoles to the exact specification within as little as 48 hours.

The process will replace the traditional hand-made techniques and could revolutionise the way the NHS buys orthotics and other products.

FDM, together with and its partners East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Salford, have already won grants totaling almost £1m from theTechnology Strategy Board and EPSRC to help them develop the supply chain. This funding will enable the company to invest in the latest 3D technology to allow it to fulfill future orders.

Using 3D printing – or additive manufacturing as it is also known – objects are created layer by layer to replicate an exact design. In addition to its work in the medical sector, FDM Digital manufactures components for the aerospace, engineering,automotive and motor sports industries.

The company was established in 2011 by James Saunders, who has a background in operations management within the advanced materials sector, and Graeme Bond, who has over 10 years’ experience of 3D print techniques.

Lancashire County Council’s Rosebud Fund has provided £172,000 while The North West Fund for Venture Capital has invested £688,000. Both funds are managed by Enterprise Ventures. The North West Fund for Venture Capital is part of the £155m North West Fund and is financed jointly by the European Regional Development Fund and the EuropeanInvestment Bank.

James Saunders, managing director of FDM Digital, said: “This new system could improve quality and reduce consultants’ time. It’s great that Rosebud and The North West Fund for Venture Capital have seen its potential and are backing our vision. 3D printing could transform supply chains in the NHS and other industries. We will become the leading centre of excellence for this new technology in the North West.” Doug Stellman of Enterprise Ventures said: “3D printing allows a radically different approach to manufacturing as can be seen from the healthy order flow being generated from their existing customer base. The technology that FDM is now proposing for orthotics allows the shape and properties of the materials be varied to match the patient's exact needs, as well as pioneering a new lean supply chain model which can be applied throughout the NHS.“