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Thanks to ARMI, stand-in organs have a real chance

Brett Brune
By Brett Brune Editor in Chief, Smart Manufacturing

UPFRONT: A Letter from the Editor In Chief

I first wrote about substitute skin in 1993. And at the time, it seemed that stand-in organs—at scale—were imminent. But 28 years later, the world largely has not made a ton of progress toward that goal—because manufacturing tools have been missing from the recipe.

No longer: ARMI (Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute) is now going about the business of creating “the baseline tools by which all sorts of organs can be manufactured from scratch,” said Executive Director Dean Kamen.

That of course involves closed-loop sensing, real-time manufacturing quality assurance, automation, AI and machine learning and machine vision systems.
Kamen’s institute is giving stand-in organs a real chance, in part because he has convinced manufacturers that are normally direct competitors, Johnson & Johnson and Medtronic, to work together.

He had done it before, with the very same companies, as the founder of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

Kamen also culled members of ARMI’s management team and board from the thousands of contacts he made running FIRST.

When ARMI won a U.S. government grant for $80 million, one of the first people he asked to be on ARMI’s board was Rockwell Automation CEO Blake Moret.

“What does Rockwell have to do with making a liver or a kidney or a lung? You could say nothing,” Kamen said. “But they make all the equipment that an automobile factory uses to make high quality cars consistently and very cost-effectively at high volume. A car is a pretty sophisticated device, and it costs less per pound than hamburger. That’s because they’re not made by hand like they were 100 years ago.”

While artistry is important for substitute organs, scientists—especially those who have been on the case for 28 years—know they need ARMI’s big dose of reality.

Read our profile of ARMI here

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