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Stryker Strengthens Investments in 3D Printing, Robotics

Stryker announced the construction of a state-of-the-art 3D printing manufacturing facility in order to produce new products across multiple divisions and set the company apart from its competitors.

The announcement came during the company’s fourth quarter earnings call, when leadership cited knee and spine as the first markets in which it plans to focus its 3D printing efforts. Stryker’s U.S. knee segment experienced 9.1 percent organic growth in the fourth quarter of 2015, bolstered by the adoption of recent cementless tibia plates, patella and revision cones made of 3D printed titanium. The company plans to launch a 3D printed titanium interbody device for spine in 2016.

“For the foreseeable future, at least the next three, four years or so, our focus is on innovative new products and not replacing our existing products with 3D printed products,” said William R. Jellison, Stryker’s retiring Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, during the call. “The pipeline of innovative new geometries that can’t be made without 3D printing is the area of focus. It’s not about trying to replace our products and drive down cost. Over time, ten years from now, that could be the case, but in the near- to mid-term, it’s really a focus on innovative new products.”

As evidenced by its 3D printing investment and acquisition of MAKO Surgical in 2013, Stryker seeks a differentiated approach, especially in joint reconstruction, from its main competitors DePuy Synthes, Smith & Nephew and Zimmer Biomet.

Robotics and additive manufacturing (3D printing) are two hotly-discussed topics in the orthopaedic industry. Manufacturers believe that both are innovative technologies that may improve patient outcomes via better implant positioning (robotics) and greater bony in-growth (3D printing). The challenge that many face is how to make the technology cost-effective or rationalize the price both internally and for buyers.

Robotics and 3D printing are not expected to be big growth drivers for Stryker in the near term, said Kevin Lobo, Chairman and CEO. Its core joint reconstruction growth will continue to come from the Triathlon knee and Accolade hip systems. However, recent investments will provide incremental growth and set up Stryker’s sales reps for conversations that competitors aren’t having.

“Over time, I expect robotics and 3D printing to take on a more important portion of our overall sales, and they will be sustainable and sticky if we have something that the competition doesn’t have,” Lobo said.

Stryker also announced the acquisitions of Sage Product, a provider of goods for intensive care units and hospital settings, and Synergetics USA's neuro portfolio. The Sage Product's $2.77 billion all-cash transaction, reportedly the company’s biggest-ever acquisition, positions Stryker to respond faster to “Never Events” such as infections. The acquisition is part of Stryker’s MedSurg division, but is expected to play a role in orthopaedics as bundled payments and episode of care receive a heightened focus. The Synergetics neuro portfolio is expected to complement Stryker Instruments' neuro, spine and ENT business. Synergetics achieved revenue of $31 million in 2015. 

A look at Stryker's 2015 year in review can be found here.