The Application of 3D Printing in the Medical Field
11 min read
3D printing technology was patented in the 80s of the last century but gained popularity relatively recently. New, promising techniques have been developed, and the capabilities of 3D technologies have reached a completely new level. However, to this day, the technique is not known in all circles, and not everyone is aware of what 3D printing is. In today’s article, we will try to explain in detail and in an accessible manner to you what 3D printing is and where it is applied.
In short, 3D printing is a technique for making three-dimensional products based on digital models. Regardless of the specific technology, the essence of the process is the gradual layer-by-layer reproduction of objects. In this process, a special device is used — a 3D printer that prints with certain types of materials. Today, we will look at how 3d printing in health care is already being used and what the future has in store. First, let’s get an overview of what 3D printing is in healthcare.
What is 3D Printing in Healthcare?
3D modeling in medicine allows you to create volumetric models. The technology has found application in aesthetic dentistry, oncology, otolaryngology, and other areas.
3D models, printed on the basis of additive technologies coupled with computed tomography, have become one of the indispensable achievements in the field of medicine. Three-dimensional images of diseased organs are transformed into high-quality images and then converted into 3D models. Now that we got an overview of 3D printing and healthcare, let’s take a look at some use cases.
3D Printed Prosthetics
One of the main uses of 3D printing in healthcare is to create prosthetics. With the advent of 3D printers, a new stage has begun in the development of prosthetics. The number of companies that are engaged in the creation of 3D printed limbs has increased several times. A great example of this is the work companies like Touch Bionics which, since 2007, has been engaged in upper limb prosthetics. Its main development is a myoelectric arm prosthesis, controlled by muscle contractions, as well as with the help of a developed mobile application.
These prostheses are designed for both complex movements and for lifting very small objects. The settings of the sensors of the prosthesis allow the bionic fingers to take the position specified in the settings when the hand moves in either direction. It is also possible to control the force applied by the fingers of the prosthesis to grip objects and the speed of movement of the fingers.
3D Printing Helps Reconstruct Bodies
One of the benefits of 3D printing healthcare is that it can help doctors and researchers reconstruct various parts of the human body. Additive manufacturing is saving lives and can help with bone reconstruction. This technology helps to make custom products that can be tailored for each patient, outside and inside their bodies. For example, additive manufacturing is offering new possibilities for jaw reconstruction!
3D printed knee implant companies such as Conformis are also developing the use of 3D printing to create implants, using a CT scan of each patient. Conformis knee implants are made possible by 3D printing and are totally making the most of the custom-made aspect. This way, the knee implant entirely respects the morphology and the needs of the patient. 3D printing in the medical field can give patients new hope and a better life.
3D Printing of Organs
3D health has evolved to the point where we can now even recreate and print human organs. While this may sound like a theme from a sci-fi movie, this is already happening today!. Thanks to 3D printing in hospitals, new opportunities for human treatment and research are being discovered. While this is one of the most promising directions of 3D printing in the medical industry, how exactly does it work? Well, let’s take a look:
- The first stage is pre-printing: first, a digital model of the future organ or tissue is created. To do this, use images obtained on MRI or CT.
- Next, printing layer by layer is needed — this technology is called additive. Only instead of a conventional 3D printer, there is a special bioprinter, and instead of ink — biomaterials. These can be human stem cells, which play the role of any cells in the body; pork collagen protein or algae-based cellular material.
- Then the resulting structure is placed in a biological environment, where it “matures” before transplantation. This is the longest stage: it can take several weeks. During this time, the structure is stabilized, and the cells are ready to perform their functions.
- Finally, the organ is transplanted and is monitored how it takes root.
Custom 3D models for medicine can help lower the cost of care and speed up the recovery time, which is why you can expect to see more 3D printers in hospitals as time goes on. Let’s continue with our next 3D printers medical use case.
Dental 3D Printing
One of the overlooked current and emerging applications of 3d printing in medicine. Today, a 3D printer for dentists makes it possible to produce durable and high-quality models of crowns, bridges, veneers, etc. This facilitates and speeds up the work of a dental laboratory: a wide range of materials allows almost any task in a short time. With the help of a 3D printer, it is possible to simulate the number of dental specimens required in one session. All designs are saved in files, so you can re-manufacture the same model if necessary in the future.
You no longer need to send a patient for 2–3 days to wait for the plaster models to be produced. Now everything happens much faster: the doctor builds a 3D model in a few minutes using an intraoral scanner and instantly transfers the data to the laboratory, where printing also does not take much time. Speed and maximum accuracy increase the level of treatment and really save resources and time.
What Can We Expect From the Future of 3D Printing in Healthcare?
We’ve talked extensively about what already exists in 3D printing in the healthcare market, so let’s set our sights on the future. Through the innovations discussed in this article, you can improve the reliability of operations, save time, reduce manufacturing costs and the cost of end products, and most importantly, improve and extend the life of patients.
In recent years, more and more attention has been paid to 3D printing in medicine and its advantages — high productivity, productivity, and customization possibilities. Along with the improvement of 3D equipment, active work is underway to create new materials for medicine. Using additive technologies, it is possible, for example, to directly print ceramic products, including teeth and gums, from biocompatible materials.
The recently 3D printing future trends indicate that breakthrough treatments are possible for blood vessels and organs or 3D bioprinting. Leading scientific and medical centers are developing new technologies and conducting clinical research in this area.
Advances in additive and biomedical technologies will contribute to the development of bionic modeling and 3D printing of tissues and organs, which will preserve health and save the lives of a huge number of people.
3D Printing in the Healthcare Industry is Expected to Grow
Given that healthcare 3D printing has so many uses and offers so many benefits, you can expect this technology to continue to grow. This does not simply mean more advanced 3d printers in the medical field, but more advanced technologies being developed that can help solve some of the most pressing issues. If you would like to take advantage of 3D printing in healthcare, you will need a trusted development partner, like Skywell Software, to create the needed 3D models. We have extensive experience in this field and can bring even the most imaginative ideas to life. Contact us today to learn more.
Originally published at https://skywell.software.