Paul Fotheringham is the founder of 3D LifePrints (3DLP) and is an experienced Technologist, Entrepreneur, and 3D printing expert who focuses on the medical sector. He holds a joint Bachelor of Science degree in Computer & Management Science from the University of Edinburgh. After graduating, he worked in over 10 countries including the US, UK, HK, Japan, and South Korea as an Enterprise Architect for organizations such as the London Stock Exchange, British Petroleum, Accenture, and Macquarie Group. In 2012 he took up a post as Chief Technology Officer for a global Micro-finance organization in Kenya where he subsequently started 3DLP initially as a Social Enterprise in order to provide sustainable, affordable, and suitable 3D printed prosthetics for the developing world amputees. He currently overseas 3DLP’s European operations from Barcelona that provide a variety of innovative medical 3D printing products and services to medical institutions. Paul will the speaking at the upcoming 3DHEALS webinar: Point of Care 3D Printing.
Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing?
Paul: I lived in Nairobi, Kenya from 2012 to 2017, and had been invited to a house party where the two Architects living there had a 3D printer and were using it to create simple models for their clients. This was the first time I had ever seen one and was fascinated – a machine that was creating physical objects right in front of my eyes.
This got me thinking – what else could a 3D printer make?
Every day I saw Kenyans around the city with missing limbs, and only a minority had prosthetic devices.
Could a 3D printer make affordable, accessible, and functionally effective prosthetics to help them?
Jenny: What inspired you to start your career in medical 3D printing?
Paul: As a Computer Scientist and Technologist for 25 years, seeing 3D printers in action was quite a revelation. I started to research how they were being used, and specifically in relation to prosthetics. I found a number of organizations that were creating designs and printing prosthetics but in my view were wholly unsuited for use in developing world environments – they were complex to manufacture, assemble, and not life-like in any way. we started to reach out to the community to ascertain what they wanted to have in a prosthetic – and developed a strategy centering around the “4 A’s” – Affordability, Acceptance, Accessibility and Awareness. Over the next 3 years, we developed a trans-radial prosthetic device (the condition that the majority of amputees in East Africa have) called the LifeArm, connecting with experts across the globe to design and create a device that meets all of their needs.
Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey in 3D printing?
Paul: My inspiration for starting our journey was based on the potentials of medical 3D printing for helping those in need. A motivated team of my friends from all across the world created the beginnings of 3D LifePrints in Kenya, and their enthusiasm, support, and hard work was the key driver, as well as seeing how our initial products could positively improve lives.
Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work?
Paul: Every day, we make patient-specific medical devices and surgical solutions that directly and positively impact patient’s lives. These include amongst others; models of tumors in pediatric patients for pre-surgical planning to allow surgeons to plan better, 3D printed implants for facial reconstruction, surgical simulation solutions to help surgeons practice complex procedures. We don’t often hear the outcome of the surgery or treatment but when we do it makes me very proud that every member of the 3DLP team has contributed towards improving a person’s life.
Jenny: What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions?
Paul: We face challenges every day in our business in creating an ongoing and sustainable business model. Everyone agrees that 3D technologies have great benefits both in improving patient care and reducing operational expenses but medical institutions find it difficult to find finances to fund a PoC service. As a seasoned provider of medical 3D printing services at the Point of Care for the past 7 years, we collect feedback data on each and every case and use this to work with hospitals and others to develop business cases to show the benefits.
Other challenges include – Lack of large-scale published clinical evidence. Lack of suitable materials. High cost of 3D printing. Lack of affordable 3D printable tissue-mimicking materials.
Jenny: What do you think is (are) the biggest challenge(s) in 3D Printing/bio-printing? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)?
Paul: Printers are too expensive. Materials are too expensive. Printers are too slow. Lack of understanding about the importance of adhering to the regulatory frameworks in place for serious medical devices created using 3D printing. A need to better understand the financial benefits to medical organizations in leveraging medical 3D printing services.
Jenny: If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be?
- To be given the knowledge to make an infinite source of free/non polluting energy
- To be given the ability to instantaneously rid the world of every unexploded landmine
- To have a brief glance at what technology looks like 1000 years in the future