Paragon says it will invest $16 million initially, and plans call for an additional $19 million investment over the next five years.

The global market for 3D printed medical devices is expected to grow by $2.3 billion in the next four years, says a global technology research company. While 3D printed medical devices encompass a variety of devices, it was orthopedic and spinal 3D printing that took the largest slice of the revenue “pie” in 2020. With many orthopedic giants headquartered in Warsaw, 3D printing is driving investment in the Orthopedic Capital of the World. Kosciusko County-based contract manufacturer Paragon Medical is investing up to $35 million to expand its 3D printing operation. The addition means every step of the process—from powder to final product—will take place on its Pierceton campus.

“We’re always trying to stay ahead of the technology curve, and this is one of the areas in [orthopedics] that’s really starting to gain some momentum,” says Paragon Medical Pierceton campus Vice President and General Manager Dan Blum. “As this technology continues to grow, we want to ensure we’re at the forefront and able to drive innovation…within our manufacturing umbrella to lead the market in it.”

Paragon’s clients include orthopedic heavyweights Zimmer Biomet, DePuy Orthopaedics and Stryker. Blum says 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, opens the door to producing complex, hard-to-machine geometries and meeting clients’ custom specifications.

As opposed to traditional subtractive manufacturing in which raw material is cut away to create the implant, additive manufacturing builds the implant from the ground up. Starting with powder, a high-powered laser or electron beam melts titanium powder and builds the implant layer by layer, guided by a computerized design.

Paragon will continue its traditional manufacturing operations, while the new additive manufacturing center will focus exclusively on 3D printing. The company will invest $16 million initially, and plans call for an additional $19 million investment over the next five years. The 34,000-square-foot addition is expected to be operational by the end of 2022.

Blum says Paragon got its feet wet in additive manufacturing by initially focusing on prototyping to master the emerging technology; he says the new center will “allow us to take it from prototype to general manufacturing and full production.”

The center will also vertically integrate the entire additive manufacturing process under one roof. Blum says the model will allow Paragon to manufacture products more efficiently, increasing speed to market for its clients.

“It’s about controlling the different process steps of the manufacturing stream within our location—not sourcing or relying upon a supply stream to produce that product,” says Blum. “Having that within our control allows more of a competitive edge for us to keep costs lower and also reduce lead times.”

The center will initially focus on porous titanium implants, mostly for shoulders and extremities, such as elbows or fingers. Porous implants, which allow bone to better integrate with the device, have been challenging to manufacture with traditional methods, but are a sweet spot for 3D printing. In the coming years, Paragon plans to add stainless steel and polymers to its 3D printing capabilities.

“Being [located] in the Orthopedic Capital of the World, DePuy is right down the road from us, and Zimmer Biomet is also headquartered here in Warsaw,” says Blum. “The proximity of those two [companies], and the development groups in particular, enables the growth here.”

Industry analysts predict 3D printed medical devices will continue to balloon, with a compound annual growth rate of almost 18% between 2021 and 2025. Blum says, with a laser focus on 3D printing, Paragon will be ready to “push the boundaries of standard contract manufacturing.”

Blum says 3D printing orthopedic implants has grown significantly in the last four to five years.

Blum says the expansion will help Paragon improve patients’ lives with cutting-edge implants and enhance the skills of its employees.