How 3D Printing Can Revolutionize Healthcare
3Dprinting is a type of additive technology that involves creating objects from layers of materials. This technology was originally used to create prototypes or molds of products and many companies are now using 3D printing to create end-use parts. 3D printing can be used to produce real parts that are custom-fit to individual patients.
Current Medical Equipment from 3D Printing
- 3D Printed Visual Models: One of the largest medical applications is the creation of models to help surgeons plan complicated procedures and now MRI or CT scans can be converted into 3D files that can printed.
- 3D Printed Surgical Guides: For these guides, scans are converted into 3D models to help surgeons virtually plan procedures. A 3D print is created instructing the professional of where and how to make insertions on patients.
- 3D Printed Hearing Aids: Many patients are receiving In-The-Ear hearing aids that are produced from 3D printing technology. The outer shell of the hearing aid is 3D printed to provide more comfort.
- 3D Printed Orthopedic Implants: Some types of orthopedic implants are using 3D printing to meet the unique specifications of individual patients.
- 3D Printed Dental Implants: Numerous 3D printed dental implants have been placed in patients around the world. Several methods are used to create 3D printed crowns, caps, and bridges.
A type of 3D printing that involves the production of biomedical components is called bioprinting. This type of technology is currently experimental, but could create a medical breakthrough in the near future. Bioprinters are connected to sophisticated computers to artificially build living tissue by producing layers of living cells. They include an intuitive software interface to enable users to create a model of the tissue before the printer begins the physical construction of the cells. The bioprinters use two bioprint heads that move up and down, back and forth, and left to right to create cells and place them in a desired position. One print head places the cells and the other places a dissolvable support gel that protects and supports the cells during printing. Over the production process, an organic object can be constructed of numerous very thin two-dimensional layers. In the next decade, bioprinters may replace other toxic and carbon-heavy medical practices such as using artificial parts in the human body. The printers may be able to produce replaceable human organs such as a heart or kidney.
Supporting Examples of Bioprinting
- Human Vein: Within the last few years, a 3D printed human vein was successfully created.
- Skin Cells: Researchers at Wake Forest University are in the process of creating a new bioprinter that sprays skin cells on the wounds of individuals suffering from burns to promote a faster and more effective recovery. This process may be able to heal wounds in just three weeks. Printing Medicine: A working relationship between GlaxoSmithKline, the University of Leeds, and Durham University is seeking to print medication on pills to develop safer and faster-acting products. These drugs will have the active ingredient printed on the surface of the pill to aid in faster breaking down by the digestive system. This will allow many medications to be printed on one pill and reduce the number of tablets taken.