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A 3D Printing Machine Profiled; Innovator Makes Medical Devices from Toys

Aired June 22, 2013 - 14:30   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're the next scientists, musicians, poets, the next makers, dreamers, teachers, and geniuses. They are "THE NEXT LIST."

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to "THE NEXT LIST." I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Today I want you to meet two innovators who are using plastic, of all things, to change lives. At his Little Devices lab at MIT, Jose Gomez Marquez is tackling affordable health care by making medical devices out of toys.

JOSE GOMEZ MARQUEZ, LITTLE DEVICES, MIT: When you're using toys it demystifies the process of medical technology. Often we look at these medical devices and we think that they're a black box that you can't go and you cannot crack open.

GUPTA: But first let's meet a man who plans to start the next industrial revolution by using a game-changing technology called 3D printing, machines that download designs from your computer, and with just the press of a button can make anything from an iPhone case to a new wardrobe, even a prosthetic hand.

BRE PETIS, CEO, MAKERBOT: Instead of looking at the world as a consumer, oh, I need something, which one am I going to buy? When you want something, you think, how can I make it perfect?

GUPTA: Meet Bre Petis. He's the CEO and co-founder of a MakerBot Industries, a Brooklyn-based company whose affordable 3D printers have taken this once expensive technology and put it in the hands of consumers.

PETIS: When we showed up, when MakerBot showed up, we showed the world that anybody can use a 3D printer, that we could all have access to this technology. And it turned out that that's really powerful.

GUPTA: Since 2009, MakerBot has sold over 20,000 printers and they just opened up their first 3D printing store right here in downtown Manhattan. Petis hopes his MakerBots will inspire a whole new generation of makers, and even more so, change manufacturing as we know it.

I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and this is "THE NEXT LIST."

PETIS: This is part of the next industrial revolution. Ordinary people have a factory on their desktop. You have an idea, you have a machine. Where there was nothing in the machine, your idea becomes real. It's just magic. Just like you have an inkjet printer that spits out droplets of ink on a piece of paper and makes a picture, a 3D printer spits out droplets of plastic and makes a three-dimensional object.

You start with a digital design and send it to the machine and it builds it up layer by layer. It starts with a roll of plastic filament. You put the material right here on the back and it comes out through this tube here and goes through a teeny, tiny hole and it draws a picture. And then it moves up a little bit and draws another picture on top of a picture. Layer by layer, it creates your model.

I'm Bre Petis, CEO of MakerBot, and I make things that make things.

And 3D printing has been around for 25 years. But until we showed up, it was just for the industrial world or the exclusive academic world. It was really a mainframe size machine, the size of a refrigerator. And we wanted one. We couldn't afford one. So we made our own. And when it worked, we quit our jobs and started MakerBot as a company so that everybody could have one.

HOD LIPSON, CO-AUTHOR, "FABRICATED, THE NEW WORLD OF 3D PRINTING: Bre was really the person that this industry was waiting for. He came basically from outside this world and just made the whole thing take off.

PETIS: When you have a MakerBot, it changes the way you think about things. You got what we call MakerBot goggles. You start looking at the world, and you're like, oh, I don't need to buy that. I can make MakerBot it. NASA uses MakerBots to prototype their rovers for Mars. They were working on a heat shield on the Curiosity Mars rover, and they had the prototype a part. It cost $5,000. When they had to prototype it again, they just bought a MakerBot. Architects who used to make things out of paper and glue and popsicle sticks, now they get to just print out their design.

KACIE HULTGREN, NEW YORK CITY SET DESIGNER: So this is a model of the big knife set which is playing at the Roundabout Theater in New York City. Traditional model building includes using a matte board, X-Acto knives. And now that I have a 3D printer, I'm able to use the 3D printer to do a lot of the design details that are hard to achieve with those materials. With the 3D printer on hand I can just print as many copies as I need.

PETIS: One of my favorite things right now is this. This is a robo- hand. There is something called amniotic Down's syndrome where children are born without fingers. And they don't make prosthetics or replacement hands for kids because they grow so fast and they cost tens of thousands of dollars when you get them that way. The plastic parts on this costs about $2.50 in plastic, so you can just imagine, OK, you've got a kid who has amniotic Down's syndrome. One, they get a hand and they get to go to school and the kids are like, you have a robotic hand? And it's really awesome. And then on top of that, when they grow out of it, they can give it to another kid who is a little bit smaller than them, and they can just scale up the design and make a new one. LAURIE SEGALL, CNN MONEY TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: So the controversy surrounding 3D printing right now is the ability to actually 3D print guns that can shoot.


PETIS: My life is dedicated to creating infrastructure for people who are creative. That same rush that I got as a kid when I fixed something or when I made something, I still want that. And I want everyone to have that.

At MakerBot, we're leading the next industrial revolution. And we don't mean that lightly or playfully. Game is on. The first industrial revolution was all about factories, but it was about going to the factory. It was about automating things, mass manufacturing. Now you have the factory on your desktop, and so it means you can customize everything. You can make things just the way you want them.

SEGALL: Think about this. What if you lost a button on your jacket? Instead of having to go to the store and figure it out, you could literally go on line, download a blueprint, and print it out in a couple minutes. When you think about that, it's a game-changer.

JOSEPH FLAHERTY, WRITER, "WIRED" MAGAZINE: And 3D printing is having a huge impact on the world. Invention is no longer a calling or a profession. It's a hobby. It's something that anybody with a suitable amount of interest and time and dedication can take up and actually compete in the marketplace in a really meaningful way.

CHRIS MILNES, INVENTOR, SQUARE HELPER: This is a Square Helper. I use it on iPhones and iPads. When you put your credit card through, this stops it from spinning. It's less than a year that I've been doing this, and I've sold more than 1,000 out of hand now, and now I'm selling wholesale to kiosk. I went to China, and it turned out the story was going to be about $6,000 in an injection mold and they wanted to charge me 30 cents apiece. This machine only costs $2,000 instead of $6,000, and it cost me about five cents in plastic.

PETIS: You don't have to think about orders in magnitude of tens or hundreds of thousands of products. You can just start, put it on the internet, see if people buy it, let it take off, and when they sell too many, they'll get more MakerBots. It's a new way of thinking about manufacturing. It's a new way of thinking about bringing ideas to life.

FLAHERTY: One of the really impressive things that MakerBot did was not just produce a technology and a set of devices but a community. To have a 3D printer, you need stuff to print, and he's also been incredibly motivated in bringing in Thingiverse.

PETIS: is a website that we created. It's just my favorite website in the world. There are just 40,000 things that you can just download and make without knowing very much about how this works. You can just jump in, start downloading things, make them, get inspired, and then start the process where you start to design things and share them. HULTGREN: When I first decided to buy a 3D printer, one of the reasons I went with MakerBot is I wanted that supportive community to be a part of. That community includes so many different types of people, tinkerers and do-it-yourselfers, really interesting designers and artists and educators that are doing really amazing things with their MakerBot.

LIPSON: We're now at the point where we're all excited about all the things it can do, but with this ability it makes everybody more efficient, including the bad guys.

SEGALL: So the controversy surrounding 3D printing right now is the ability to actually 3D print guns. And that's actually the case now. You can print the parts of a gun, put them together, and fire bullets. Legislators are obviously concerned about this, and it's one of those things that any time there is a new frontier of technology you're going to have new legislation, you're going to have new ways of thinking about how you handle the use cases for this technology.

FLAHERTY: One of the most amazing things about 3D printers is you can print in a myriad of different materials. So you can print in plastics, which is one of the most common, but you can also print in metals, glass, ceramics. Some scientists are experimenting with human tissue. And for the foodies in the audience, you can actually print chocolate.

PETIS: We're still just beginning. This is still just the beginning. We're just getting our feet wet. And the world is just starting to discover how powerful having a MakerBot is. If I had had a MakerBot at 10 years old, the world would be different now. What happens if we put MakerBots in the hands of every 10-year-old, when kids grow up and it's just natural for them to design and make things? I can't wait to find out.

GUPTA: And the future is already looking brighter for Bre. He just sold MakerBot for more than $400 million to one of the largest 3D printing companies in the world, Stratasys, and even gets to stay on as CEO.

Coming up, how one man is tackling the cost of health care by making medical devices out of toys.


GUPTA: Welcome back to "THE NEXT LIST." Now let's meet Jose Gomez Marquez, who believes everyone deserves proper medical care no matter where they live, in developing countries or right here in the United States. Jose is tackling the problem of affordable health care in his own way, by making medical devices with toys. With his do-it-yourself medical kits he is teaching doctors around the world to open up, take apart, and repurpose or hack toys to save lives.

So where are we?

MARQUEZ: You're at the Little Devices lab at MIT. GUPTA: When you think innovations in international health you expect to see some gleaming laboratory with the latest and greatest things, but sometimes you need easier products to start with.

MARQUEZ: A lot of doctors can heal in sometimes very fundamental ways, so sometimes it's just the little devices that get in the way that they don't have, and we try to provide those, whether it's an IV alarm or foot-powered ne nebulizer, just simple things. It's probably not going to get on "Nature" any time soon, but that doesn't matter.

Our customer at the end of the day is that lonely doctor or nurse in the middle of nowhere or in an overcrowded hospital in a developing world city. Some of the challenges that they'll face are a cauterizing pen that allows you to do surgery will simply just short out and not work anymore. A light bulb at the surgical ward will blow out after seven years of service without a replacement part nearby, and no one is paying attention to them in terms of the design focus. And that's what we try to do.

Toys have a great supply chain. You can find these things pretty much anywhere in the world, even if they're knockoffs. We may take a helicopter and fashion a rack and pinion mechanism from it. We can take an interactive toy that will have an alarm and make an IV- sounding buzzer so a nurse can come back and check on patients not every five minutes but only when that IV is actually becoming empty.

We took some nurses to a toy store and we said, OK, what do we want to build? And they picked out an AK-47 toy gun and said, we're going to build an alarm. We helped them a little bit the first time they take something apart that has electronics, and we show them here's the switch, here's the buzzer, here's the lights. It's a very simple mechanism. It would have a swing and when the swing passes through a switch. It would trip the wire and activate the little alarm. It may not be that melody, but it would be something else.

But in the absence of them not knowing electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, fundamentals of product design, they don't know how to do any of that. What we try to build are devices that can bridge that gap. They can put together a toy.

I don't think I can go by a toy store unless I'm in a real rush and not go in. These are amazing, little LEDs for your fingers. I'm not sure exactly what to do with this, but I think we can find an interesting app.

I'll go into a toy store and I'll start to look at the subcomponents of toys. We're always looking at the couplings. What are the easy mechanisms that can I harvest? For $5, you get the four little LEDs that already have the clip on and everything. People already did the engineering for us. They just didn't know what they were using it for.

When you look at a toy today, you're actually looking at an engineered part. It's not the cheap injected molded plastic of 20 years ago. There are mechanical bits and pieces. There are electronic bits and pieces. Sometimes there is even chemistry that you can harvest from the toys.

What are these?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's called nano-blocks and it's kind of like silly putty. It changes color from the heat in your hand.

MARQUEZ: No way.

There are some mechanisms in toys that are too clever and just a really good idea that we'll get them just as inspiration to do something with them later on.

These I haven't seen for years. I didn't even know what these were called. I grew up with these in Honduras. What I would do is take something like this or even something like this and make a cheap metronome so that people would know the pace at which they were pumping, just one-two-three, or even do something like this, which is kind of a funny sound.

When you're using toys, it demystifies the process of medical technology. Often we look at these medical devices and we think they're a black box that you can't go and you cannot crack open, and you need an expert to even take a screwdriver at it. And you may not have the courage to hack a $1,000 device, but you definitely have the courage to hack something that's $5. And then if you add a little ingenuity, it becomes something as powerful as that $1,000 medical device.

I'll probably use that for that agricultural prosthetic. Knowing that I can wake up and I can legitimately go to a toy store and buy anything I want for research and then go and take it apart is like being a little kid again.

Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks very much.

MARQUEZ: More importantly, even if we work on boring devices, and sometimes we have to work on boring devices that still have a lot of relevance and use in a developing country. And when we get pictures of patients using our devices, it's the best feeling in the world.


MARQUEZ: We invent every day at the Little Devices group at MIT. That's where we focus on the DIY experimentation for medical devices. And that's where the medi-kits came out of. We have right now five different medi-kits. A medi-kit is essentially a combination of Lego- like construction blocks. But instead of coming up with a car or a house or a doll, you come up with a medical device.

At the simplest level we make parts so that anybody can make their own medical technology, particularly health officials anywhere in the world.

GUPTA: So this is what one of the kits would look like. MARQUEZ: We said why don't we use Legos as a way of using a scientific breadboard, basically, to make our own chips. And so each one of these components locks onto a Lego piece, and inside is a single feature of a microfluidic circuit. You put your feature together however you would based on what you need.

GUPTA: People who need to test blood for all different kinds of things. This is a crucial ingredient to that.

MARQUEZ: Absolutely.

GUPTA: So if you have this sort of kit, you can offer blood testing anywhere in the world in places where they typically couldn't.


GUPTA: Cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, the biggest killers, really. So when you look at something like this, technology that costs half a million dollars.

MARQUEZ: And very good technology.

GUPTA: These are Legos that you've made yourself with kids' toys, essentially. How much does a kit like this cost, just for sake of comparison?

MARQUEZ: So the microfluidic kit, that's about $150.

GUPTA: A lot cheaper.


GUPTA: Is this being used already around the world?

MARQUEZ: In Nicaragua. That was our first deployment.

GUPTA: What's been the response?

MARQUEZ: People like it. They call us and they say we want to put microscopes. So we found these little microscopes that you can get in China for about $5. Can we put a microscope in there and put a mobile phone on top of that? And we see them struggle the same way our students would struggle through a prototype, but what's important is they're trying.

America's health care problem is becoming much more expensive. Affordability is now very closely linked to quality when we have discussion about health care in America. And if we can distribute that ability to innovate to everyday people and doctors in that rural clinic in Kansas or Michigan or Appalachia, that will have implications in our local health care.

The DIY movement and the opportunity to make things accessible based on what we identify are enabling technologies, 3D printers, laser cutters, 3D scanners and microprocessors that we weren't even talking about five years ago have the ability to impact health care in a way that we've never explored before because we always felt we didn't have permission. And I think we still probably don't have permission, but that doesn't mean we can't do something about it.

GUPTA: Jose believes that everyone deserves proper medical care no matter where they live. By repurposing everyday toys into sophisticated medical devices, he and his team at MIT are putting affordable health devices into the hands of medical providers all around the world.

Bre Petis believes that everyone is a maker, and by putting once expensive technology in the hands of everyday consumers, he is enabling ordinary people to bring their ideas to life. Both men are changing the way we think, create, and consume. That's what earns them both a spot on "THE NEXT LIST."

I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks for watching. Hope to see you back here next week.