3D Printing Technologies are disrupting the medical Sector with customized implants designed to fit directly onto a patient’s anatomy.

Akanksha Shaila Barbade, our next pathbreaker, Biomedical Design Engineer at Amplitude Ortho, analyzes MRI / CT scans of the patient’s anatomy (knee, ankle and hip), and converts the scans into 3D models that allow surgeons to reconstruct the defect in the best possible way, minimize time from surgery to recovery, improve patient outcomes and well-being.

Akanksha talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about researching 3D printing and many other design methodologies through online videos and freelance projects that led her to the field of Biomedical Design engineering.

For students, there aren’t too many opportunities in niche fields. So you have to learn the skills on your own to grab any opportunity that comes your way !

Hi Akanksha, Your background?

I grew up in Ghatkopar, Mumbai. I went to a Marathi Medium school. My father was an Auto Rickshaw driver with a Morning Newspaper seller. My mother is a housewife, but she always used to work some extra time from home so she could give us what we wanted. My interests were always into Cricket, Kho- Kho. I won many prizes and medals by representing my School & College in State level Competitions. 

Though I wanted to be a Cricketer, due to a shoulder injury, I was unable to clear my medical round. So I started focusing on my engineering career  

What did you do for graduation/post-graduation?

I completed my Diploma from Government Polytechnic, Thane in Computer Engineering, as CSE / IT was the most popular stream and my elder sister is also into the IT field. After completion of my diploma I started applying for my BE, but my marks were not so good. I was unable to get into a good college in the first 2 rounds. When I started filling the form for the 3rd round, I opted for Good colleges including DY Patil (Biotechnology stream), Vidyalanakar institute of technology (Biomedical Stream). I got into Vidyalankar institute technology in the Biomedical Stream. So it’s just pure luck that I got into this beautiful field which helps the Healthcare Industry. 

What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

The key influencer who contributed to my growth was my mother. I learnt never to stop learning even when you are done, as there is no one there to support you. You are on your own. You learn, fail & grow, and always remember that everything begins with an idea. 

The turning point that led me to choose Design & Development of Patient Specific Implant as my career was my final year project, “Design of Medical Machine Overview” (Patient Monitor, Anesthesia, C-Arm , Xray , Baby incubator ). It is an online Service manual which gets imported into a webGL website and when we click on any part of the machine, it throws up a pop up window with information regarding that part . If we want to see what is inside, we can hide the part and see the internal function of the machine. This is when I started researching 3D printing technologies and many other design methodologies. 

In my final year, Antomiz3D Medtech Pvt Ltd came to our college for placements. And I knew that I had to get onto this boat if I wanted to get ahead in my career. I also applied to GE, Wipro. But since I was from a Marathi medium school, I wasn’t confident about my English communication skills due to which I didn’t do well in the group discussion part of placements. But I finally cracked the Anatomiz3D interview and took the first step in my career path.

How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path

I started my career in Antomin3D Medtech Pvt Ltd as a Biomedical Design engineer. I was a trainee there. We had to read CT / MRI scans, convert them into 3D models and then apply engineering design on them to design patient specific implants. But due to office politics, I got out of the job. I was jobless for two months. During this period, I started researching, made lots of contacts on linkedIn and started posting my design skills online based on which I got many freelance projects to work on. I learned many skills like Design of Mandible ( lower jaw or jawbone is the largest, strongest and lowest bone in the human facial skeleton), Maxilla (bone that forms your upper jaw), Orbital, Pelvic model, kidney tumor model for pre-planning of surgery. These 3D reconstruction models help surgeons to pre-plan their surgery. Because of my skills, I got my next offer in an MNC company, Kalyani Additives Pvt Ltd under Kalyani Technoforge. Here I learned the Electron Beam Melting (EBM) process for 3D printing of metals as well as plastic machine printing using Stratasys 3D printer. As this was a startup company, we had to do everything from scratch, including software development, design & development of new products, MIM (Metal Injection Moulding) technology implementation, ISO 13485 compliance (company needs to demonstrate its ability to provide medical devices and related services that consistently meet customer and applicable regulatory requirements). After months, I realized that I had to design implants which help patients recover from accidents, disease etc. I realised that one cannot learn many concepts without an on-field job. So, I switched to my current company, Amplitude Ortho, where we design Pin Position Guides to put cutting guide on knee for total knee replacement 

My work in Kalyani was to help regulatory affairs for Customized patient specific implant Design & development documentation and my work at Amplitude Ortho is to convert CT & MRI knee scans into 3D models, assign landmark points, design of Pin Guide position to place Cutting Guide on knee to cut the Femur & tibia. I don’t work directly with patients, our work is connected to surgeons.

Pin Guide Cutting of Knee

So Pin Guide is put on Femur/ Tibia, then pins are inserted into Guide to secure the pins on Femur/Tibia.

Cutting Guide is inserted into pins and then by using cutter it cuts the both femur/tibia 

How did you get your first break?

My first break was through campus placement. I was never a smart student, and never came in the top 10. I was just an average student mostly focused on sports. But one thing to always remember is that your future doesn’t depend on how well you did in your college; everything depends on the skills you have to complete the task perfectly. 

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

In my first job, I met a person who believed I didn’t have the skills to do the job because I was just a normal girl and that I can’t do anything on my own.

Those words were too harsh for me, but I never stopped learning on my own from various websites, YouTube videos and research papers. I decided that I would stand on my own. 

Where do you work now? Tell us about your role

I am a Biomedical Design Engineer at Amplitude Ortho.

As a part of my job, I read MRI / CT scans of the knee, identify bone disease by reading scans and convert scans into 3D Knee, Ankle, and Hip models. We put points on the 3D model to cut through those points (called as landmarks points) by using landmarks point design pin guide. 

How does your work benefit society? 

Our customized implants allow surgeons to reconstruct the defect in the best possible way along with time minimization for improving patient outcomes and well-being. The PSI (Patient Specific Instrument) also allows producing complex anatomical shapes, meshed or porous structures.

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Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

Once I designed a kidney tumor which is a very complex tumor. A 3D reconstruction of kidney with tumor helps surgeons in better pre-planning, identifying tumor boundaries which helps minimize the surgery time as well as blood loss.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Try to learn and implement your skills, learn industrial skills along with your curriculum skills. Approach many internship while you are pursuing your education 

Future Plans? 

I want to play an important role in helping surgeons as much as possible to reconstruct impossible patient specific implants through 3D reconstruction of anatomy. 

I want to open my own hospital with in-house Lab of patient specific implant Design Solutions.