How PolyUnity Is Shaping the Future of Healthcare Through Additive Manufacturing – Interview with Dr. Stephen Ryan

Written by, the Independent AM Magazine

PolyUnity Tech is a Canada based company providing a fully managed Additive Manufacturing as a Service (AMaaS) solution to hospitals. Their services encompass everything from design to manufacturing and all steps in between. This is made possible through their innovation cloud-based software, which serves as a storefront for validated 3D printable medical applications. In an interview with, Dr. Stephen Ryan, MD and co-founder of PolyUnity Tech, shares his insights into the healthcare sector and outlines the benefits 3D printing technology can unlock.

Founded in 2018 by three visionary medical students from Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, PolyUnity Tech was born out of a unique set of challenges. The province’s vast geography, distributed populations, and isolated communities presented significant supply chain issues. The founders were inspired by the idea of “teleporting” medical equipment to these remote areas. Their vision was to establish distributed “point of care” additive manufacturing production facilities, complemented by a digital catalog of printable medical equipment.

This ambitious vision became a reality during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, forcing the company to mobilise its resources to manufacture emergency medical equipment in a print farm. Since then, its processes have continually improved and PolyUnity expanded its catalog to include over 500 products and has successfully established point of care services in key hospitals across Canada.

PolyUnity specifically focuses on: replacement parts, organisation workflows, safety enhancements, product adaptations, repairs, and maintenance tools. They have developed proprietary software and processes, in collaboration with hospitals, to empower them with “point of care” 3D printing capabilities.

Currently, the company is in the process of scaling, bringing the power of additive manufacturing and its many applications to other hospital networks.

Interview with Dr. Stephen Ryan

In an interview with, Dr. Stephen Ryan, MD and co-founder of PolyUnity, looks at how additive manufacturing is revolutionising the healthcare sector and unlocking the potential for entirely new and customised solutions. He also discusses the technological innovations that are driving this adoption, and looks ahead to what the future might hold thanks to advances in the 3D printing industry.

Dr. Stephen Ryan, MD and Co-founder of PolyUnity Tech.

In your opinion, what is the significance of additive manufacturing for the healthcare sector?

For the first time in human history, healthcare can use additive manufacturing solutions to produce customised medical solutions tailored to the patient. Personalised medicine is an innovation that will bring healthcare into the future and create new treatment opportunities to improve the health and wellbeing of our patients. This approach is not possible with traditional manufacturing means. Some examples are: customised implants, splints/casts, prosthetics, and pharmaceuticals.

Another benefit of additive manufacturing is the potential for novel product development. Unlocking the power of rapid prototyping and quick turn-around iterations will pave the way for new medical device discovery and improvement to existing equipment.

The pandemic exposed a harsh truth about our global healthcare systems. We are heavily reliant on delicately balanced overseas manufacturing and distribution. We have been forced to address this reality and come to terms with the fact that our world is changing. As geopolitical variables emerge, climate change impacts escalate, and the complexity of delivering healthcare continues we must adapt how we manufacture lifesaving equipment.  Regionalised manufacturing powered by digital inventories and local AM fulfilment centres will create much needed supply chain resiliency. If and when the traditional supply chain is disrupted, we will have the tools in place to meet the demands of healthcare consumption.

How do you see the adoption of 3D printing technology in the healthcare industry progressing?

It has been admittedly slow, but steady. Any new technology adoption in healthcare takes time, has rigorous testing and regulations to consider. There is a level of education, proofing and confidence building that needs to occur to create the paradigm shift necessary for adoption and regular use.

There is an appetite for 3D printing, but the path forward is not clear or linear. Early use cases that are gaining traction include: pre-surgical planning, bolus creation for cancer care along with jigs and fixtures. However, the use of 3D printing in hospitals is fragmented, complicated and has not yet reached its full potential. It will take more time and dedicated resources to get hospitals equipped for 3D printing. Once established, healthcare workers will be able to tap into the many applications that currently exist and will have the infrastructure in place to avail of solutions that will inevitably be developed in the future.

I do believe that certain 3D printing applications will become the standard of care for medical practice. When this happens, hospitals and healthcare practitioners will have to integrate AM into their everyday practices. It is like the discovery of antibiotics, there is only a before and after and I feel we are in the “after” with 3D printing. It is not going anywhere, and in the near future will be used everyday, like antibiotics.

Additive manufacturing has developed continuously over the last few years. Which innovations or technological breakthroughs do you consider to be particularly important for the healthcare industry?

The additive manufacturing industry has progressed leaps and bounds over the last decade. I think we are finally seeing the technology being adopted by various industries and the true potential being realised. There are certain advancements that have been particularly useful for healthcare applications.

Material diversity – The spectrum of materials available increases the number of potential applications. Access to metals, plastics, silicone and carbon fibre will lead to the development of novel medical equipment and the various material properties will push true customised patient solutions into the mainstream.

Printer speed – one of the functional limitations of the technology is the speed of production. To provide “point of care” services, manufacturing of on-demand products and services need to happen quickly. Recently, every major player in the hardware space has doubled down on improving speed. The next generation of printers will keep up with the demand, requiring less printers to achieve scale and deliver products on time.

Software – There are unique considerations when providing Additive Manufacturing services to the healthcare industry. Not only is workflow efficiency important, but also data security and protection of patient information. Progress in the suites of software that address these limitations are emerging at a rapid pace. This will lead to more trust in the AM process and increased adoption by hospitals and healthcare providers.

What impact do you think additive manufacturing will have on the medical and healthcare sector, and possibly society as a whole, in the coming years?

Ultimately, we have just scratched the surface of additive capabilities. If the same trend in advancement continues over the next decade, we will see an exponential boom in innovation and creativity. Personally, I would love to see a world where 3D printers are staple household items, no different than your fridge or television. Allowing for items to be produced at the point of consumption without the need of global shipping. And by that logic, hospitals will be doing the same.

For more information on PolyUnity, you can watch this video or visit their website.

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