LATAM Startup Success: 3-D Models That Help Your Doctor Prep for Surgery
Latin American Tech is booming. Over the last 20 years, the thriving cultures and economies south of Silicon Valley—from Mexico to Colombia to Argentina’s Southern Cone—have begun to follow the steps California’s Tech Mecca in terms of products innovated, dollars invested, and developers trained. In this series, we will honor and celebrate some of the hot spots and rising stars of LATAM tech, to showcase our neighbors and show off our region. We hope you enjoy!
Born of a need for medical imaging that was more efficient, affordable, and precise, Armor Bionics was founded in Montevideo, Uruguay in 2015.
When Bruno Demuro's mother needed an operation to remove a tumor of the size of a two-peso coin in her skull—costing her a huge scar and significant bone loss—the future co-founder of Armor Bionics (along with Pablo Pereira) began to wonder if there could be "a more intuitive way" to prepare for and plan for such a surgery.
The idea, suggested by and championed by doctors known by the co-founders became: why do we only get to see scans of our bodies before we begin to perform surgery on them? What if we could hold, touch, and handle these body parts? What if we could actually practice the surgery before the big day?
Why not scan, print, and then create 3-D models, so surgeons would be able to plan and prepare with more precision and more confidence before the surgery?
From that need, a tech solution, and online system, and a potent homegrown startup was born.
“If you were about to have surgery, would you want your doctor or medical team to have a chance to practice the surgery before doing it?” Demuro asked.
The question, both simple and revolutionary, inspired Demuro and Pereira to take 3-D printing technology somewhere it had yet to go.
Incubated at Sinergia Tech (an Uruguayan coworking spaces specializing in startups that apply cutting-edge technologies to 3D printing, robotics, and drones) and funded with two year’s seed capital from ANII (Uruguay’s National Agency for Investigation and Innovation), the duo began building models of their modeling system. In two years, they’d created a prototype, and soon after, they were ready to go to market.
The product: an online system where doctors and patients can use the innovations from their specialized image-slicing technology to convert any 2-D CT or MRI body scan directly into a 3-D printed model that is tangible, pliable, and accurate. Because of the nature of 3-D printing, the model can be programmed in Latin America and printed at any hospital in the world equipped with a 3-D printer. It’s truly an efficient, and efficiently global, tech solution.
And the results are impressive: post-operative research shows that having a 3-D model to aid in preparation reduces surgery time by up to 35% and has the benefit of speeding up patient recovery. This is something Demuro's mother did not get to enjoy, but the company hopes that many other mothers like her will.
Two years after their founding, Armor Bionics was producing between five and ten models per month; models which could be used to prepare, rehearse or influence up to 300 local surgeries. Today, the number has expanded exponentially. Hospitals throughout Latin America, from Uruguay to Mexico, and in the United States and Russia, are currently using Armor Bionics services. And the price remains the same: between 200 and 300 dollars for a “complete jaw.” (The price goes up for more complex models).
It’s a (relatively) small price to pay for your surgeon to practice before cutting you—or your mother—open.
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