How 3D Printing is Helping Make the Lives of Wounded Soldiers Better

How 3D Printing is Helping Make the Lives of Wounded Soldiers Better

by Lee Dockstader, Director of Vertical Market Development, 3D Printing, HP Inc.
Image courtesy of Invent Medical

Image courtesy of Invent Medical

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Monday, December 19, 2016 - 8:05am

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It’s easy to see why HP cofounder David Packard is revered as a brilliant man who led a big life. Not only did he and Bill Hewlett start Hewlett-Packard together in 1939 out of a Palo Alto garage, but they built it up to be a Silicon Valley giant that today remains an innovative multibillion-dollar company. 

What many don’t know is that Packard made major contributions outside of his day job at HP. He served as U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense under President Nixon and backed countless philanthropic efforts, including gifting funds to establish California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital.

On a recent business trip to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, outside of Washington, D.C., I discovered another piece of Packard’s history. He was the second person to serve as president of the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, the nation’s only federal health sciences university.

Located on the Walter Reed campus, the university trains physicians, nurses, dentists, and scientists who serve the military. Given HP’s innovative work in 3D printing technology and its potential applications for prosthetics, orthotics, and all kinds of medical applications, I found it fitting that Packard’s name was on one of the buildings there.

Walter Reed’s 3D Medical Applications Center is one of the more advanced 3D printing facilities I’ve seen at a hospital. The center combines 3D CAD (computer aided design) technology and additive manufacturing with medical imaging such as CT and MRI scans to produce tools that help doctors provide better treatment and patients have better outcomes. They print molds for everything from silicone ears and noses to cranial plates. They’re capable of building full-color models of patients’ bodies that surgeons use to prepare before operating.  

The doctors and scientists working at Walter Reed are doing amazing work finding ways to treat and prevent injuries for the brave men and women who serve in the U.S. military. The potential for HP to help the medical center build products like custom orthotics for injury prevention, gas masks, sleep apnea masks, and oxygen masks could make life better for thousands and thousands of people in the military and beyond.

One of my favorite quotes from Packard: “Set out to build a company and make a contribution, not an empire and a fortune.”

It’s a potent reminder of the importance of the work at Walter Reed and underscores the promising applications for 3D technology for our nation’s wounded warriors. It sure makes me excited to come to work every day for HP—a company that remains committed to making life better for everyone, everywhere. I believe it would make Packard proud to see this vision becoming a reality.