How 3-D Printers Are Reshaping the Future of Health Tech
With the power of 3-D printing we’re making the impossible possible. But this transformative technology isn’t just changing the way we think about the design and delivery of healthcare products and solutions, it’s also revolutionizing our business—and providing us with new opportunities to innovate and make an impact around the world.
Recent consumer product innovations like our 3-D printed face masks, for example, build on insights from 3-D printing applications across our medical devices and pharmaceutical businesses, where we’re serving patients and consumers with greater speed, efficiency and personalization than ever before.
But these recent projects are just the tip of the iceberg. Down the line, we hope 3-D printing will enable us to manufacture products closer to where patients and providers are, enabling greater access in remote areas and expanding our ability to address global healthcare needs.
Here’s an inside look at the people driving 3-D printing innovation at Johnson & Johnson today—plus, insights on how you can make your own imprint on the trajectory of health for people everywhere.
3-D Printing With a Watchmaker’s Precision
In traditional manufacturing environments—an automotive plant, for example—products come together in piecemeal fashion. Once the various components have been built, they're brought together and the final product is assembled.
But 3-D printing turns that process on its head: Layer by layer, the creation and assembly of the product take place simultaneously, allowing for greater customization with reduced costs and in some cases fewer inefficiencies.
At Johnson & Johnson's 3-D Printing Center of Excellence in Switzerland, Sherline Wunder is exploring real-world applications of this new technology. Specifically, as Process Engineering Manager, she’s 3-D printing medical devices that are at the forefront of surgical innovation.
“Switzerland is known for having deep expertise in instrumentation, so it makes sense that our 3-D Printing Center of Excellence team here is primarily focused on creating new and novel medical instruments,” she said.
Indeed, the degree of precision required for these sophisticated medical instruments would make any watchmaker proud. And the degree of orchestration among cross-functional teams that goes into the development of those products is likewise tightly wound.
"My colleagues come from every conceivable department at Johnson & Johnson," Sherline said. "They ensure we're all aligned during the development of strategy so that we can have a smooth transition once it's time for production to start."
Sherline's career trajectory also showcases how our culture encourages you to grow, take on new challenges and explore your interests. She came on board as a mechanical engineer with a strong STEM background, later moving to R&D. But when the burgeoning field of 3-D printing piqued her interests, her supervisors and mentors supported her every step of the way as she pivoted in her career.
"By gaining experience from different sectors of the business, I learned how to see the big picture,” she explained. “I also learned to take a structured approach to defining problems and breaking them down. If you have a diverse background here, you can jump in quickly and bring great energy to the team."
Today, Sherline is focused on patient impact. "We're constantly experimenting and creating and testing innovative solutions. We have so many opportunities to build things that will benefit patients right now, and we can build them faster than ever before. In some cases, what we can now accomplish in three weeks once took us three months to complete. So it's an exciting time!"
Reimagining What’s Possible
Like Sherline, Gráinne Cunniffe is excited by the possibility of using 3-D printing to improve treatment and care options for patients. "With 3-D printing, we can build every single part of a product at once with extreme precision,” the Staff Engineer/Assistant Project Manager explained. “That really helps us develop patient-centered solutions—solutions that could be totally unique and customized for each patient."
She added, "With 3-D printing, it has become increasingly more likely that if you can imagine it, we can print it.”
In her day-to-day work, Gráinne manages Johnson & Johnson’s collaborative bioprinting research laboratory with AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland-funded institute at Trinity College Dublin. There, she co-supervises a team of graduate students and postdocs, serving as a mentor, project manager, ceaseless collaborator, innovator—and more. The overarching goal? To bring groundbreaking ideas to life so that they can have a real-world impact.
No surprise, then, that continuous learning and innovation are two constants of Gráinne’s role.
"We realized very early on that there are few people in the world who have this level of expertise in 3-D bioprinting," Gráinne said. "So we’re actively nurturing them with our research lab and our internal bioprinting team in Dublin. In my role, I'm effectively mentoring the next generation of experts. It's really exciting, because this field is wide open."
And that's something we appreciate at Johnson & Johnson: We know that when we empower and inspire our employees, innovation thrives. So we're actively fostering an inclusive workplace culture around the globe, one where women excel in STEM careers and people care more about a great idea than the title of the person who came up with it.
Join Johnson & Johnson Today
Building your career isn't so different from creating products using 3-D printing technology: It happens one layer at a time, and to get the elements right requires equal bits of foresight, planning, experimentation and testing. But at Johnson & Johnson, you'll find boundless opportunities to grow, take on new challenges and explore your interests—no matter where they take you. You'll learn that when you apply your skill and drive to our collective purpose, there's no limit to the difference we can make together.
So check out how you can shape the future of 3-D printing with us right now, as well as all of the opportunities to join the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies today.