Jacqui O'Connor first began brainstorming ideas for Galway-based start-up MedScan3D when she was on maternity leave in 2018. At the time, she was working as a technical sales rep for an orthopaedic implants company and having done the job for five years, she felt it was time for a complete change.
O’Connor is a chemistry graduate with a master’s degree in biomedical engineering and having worked as a research assistant in NUIG she was familiar with both biomaterials and medical devices.
Her husband, James Wall, is an engineer who runs his own 3D printing company and the couple’s lightbulb moment came when they realised they could address a gap in the market by combining their skills to produce 3D printed models for applications in the healthcare sector.
“I began by dipping my toe in the water and quickly realised the idea had massive potential as there was an obvious demand, especially in the medical devices sector for testing and marketing,” she says. “Our specialisation is producing highly accurate models and our printing technology is able to print multi-colour, multi-texture, multi-material models all in a single print. Less than a year in, we are working with several big blue chip customers and across several departments within them and have been shortlisted in the Med-Tech Innovations Awards in the 3D printing sector.”
MedScan3D converts 3D digital scans into 3D printed anatomical models and its technology has a number of potential users. “We work side by side with research groups and healthcare professionals to develop clinically relevant models for prototyping and medical device testing while the models can also be used for patient specific surgical planning, for simulation and education,” says O’Connor.
For example, if a cardiac patient needs a new heart valve O’Connor’s company can take the patient’s CT scan and turn it from an image into an accurate physical model of their heart. This means the surgeon can see exactly where the valve has to be placed and what anatomical challenges might have to be overcome during the surgery. Using the models improves the predictability of surgical outcomes and lowers the risk of infection. It also speeds up patient recovery and discharge rates.
MedScan3D was set up last March and is based in the Galway Technology Centre. It is currently operating with a team of three, O'Connor, CAD specialist Martin Downey and Wall, who is continuing to run his other business. Two more jobs are to be added shortly and O'Connor estimates there will a combined staff of 10 between MedScan3D and Walls' 3D Technology within the next year. Direct investment in the business to date has been small as O'Connor was able to tap into the resources of her husband's company to keep start-up costs to a minimum. MedScan3D began trading last June and has been generating income since September.
MedScan3D's customers will include medical device companies, surgeons and trainee surgeons, universities, hospitals and technical sales teams. So far, the early adopters have been the medical device companies and once MedScan3D has a healthy customer base built up in Ireland it will begin moving overseas as its potential market is global. "It is our intention to develop internationally, but we will retain our operations hub in Ireland," says O'Connor.
MedScan3D’s technology streamlines what is normally a complicated process and provides the sort of quick turnaround fast-paced R&D teams typically need. “Currently there is no other company that combines and provides all aspects of medical scan conversion, CAD design adaptation and 3D printing of patient specific models,” says O’Connor. “There are companies that can do some of these processes but customers might have to use up to five separate suppliers to get the end-product they want. We work as an extension of customers’ R&D teams and provide them with a full turnkey solution.”