It is now hard to imagine industry without it, 3D printing. The new technology opens up completely new potential for manufacturing companies in terms of efficiency, speed and individuality. But 3D printing technology is not only used in industry. There are also numerous application scenarios in medicine, from prosthetics to pressure medical instruments.
“At the moment 3D printing is at the cutting edge of medical research, but in the future the technology will be taken for granted by all of us in healthcare,” – Jason Chuen, Director of Vascular Surgery at Austin Health
Why 3D printing
For several years now, the 3D printing process has opened up a completely new method of manufacturing products and prototypes. It is part of the so-called additive production, i.e. the production of three-dimensional objects from digital data. One might therefore almost say that this innovative type of production is the industry’s response to the data age. The process is almost simple, yet often reminiscent of the classic inkjet printer. When creating new objects, the 3D printer uses a kind of layer process, i.e. it adds one layer of the desired material after another until the desired object is finished. Therefore, 3D printed objects are often recognizable by the scale that represents the layer process.
Whether in the factory or in companies, the technology makes it possible to produce complex parts more cost-effectively and in much less time than was possible with a classic production process. However, the benefits for industry are also extremely relevant for the medical industry.
3D printing and customization
How 3-D-Printed Prosthetic Hands Are Changing These Kids’ Lives (Source: National Geographic)
Traditional prosthetics has a problem. As is often the case with factory goods, they are mass-produced goods. Although the individual prostheses will still be adapted later, a completely individual production was excluded until now. 3D prosthetics ends this cycle because it is tailor-made for every user. The dimensions are digitally recorded and taken into account for the prosthesis to be printed.
With these new possibilities, mass prosthetics should soon be a thing of the past. 3D printing is already increasingly being used to manufacture new prostheses that are precisely tailored to the patient’s needs. In view of the megatrend of individualization, this will therefore increase in the coming years and eventually become the new standard.
Bioprinting and Tissue Engineering
Scientists Can Now 3D Print Functional Organs (Source: Futurism)
The terms bioprinting and tissue engineering may sound somewhat unusual at first, but they describe exactly what is already practiced in science and medicine today; 3D printing with organic material. Researchers use the process to print so-called “organoids”. These are detailed, but on a smaller scale, organs that are used in medical research. The next step for physicians is to reconstruct functioning organs that can replace a failing kidney or liver in the near future.
“Part of the challenge of printing complex organs is that organs need oxygen and nutrients.” – Dr. Justin Ryan, Phoenix Children’s Hospital
Despite these challenges, bioprinting is developing rapidly. Some hospitals have already set up 3D printing laboratories in which they produce patient-specific models to prepare for an upcoming operation.
Patient-specific aids and instruments
3D printing to develop cardiovascular instruments (Source: Stratasys)
Anyone who has ever received a dental implant knows that they are expensive. However, high costs are not only incurred on the patient side, the medical devices are also expensive and, depending on the area of application, sometimes difficult to manufacture.
3D printing is a high-quality and cost-effective alternative. The process enables the production of important aids, from implants to minimally invasive instruments, everything is conceivable.
3D printing is thus a solution that has so far been difficult to implement in many areas of medicine. An important step towards the patient and cost-efficient treatment.
Post Picture: Singapore Business