3D printer Is Transforming Healthcare, is already making improvements in healthcare, with even more on the horizon. Best of all, with 3-D printing devices predicted to follow the usual technological pattern of advancement — smaller sizes and lower costs.
1. Alternative Prosthetics
Although 3-D printing shows great potential for prosthetic limbs, they’re just a few of the countless body parts this new technology could reproduce. With its ability to print nearly any three-dimensional object, 3-D printing in medicine is the innovation the healthcare industry has been waiting for; 3-D-printed body parts can easily be manipulated to fit the wide variety of shapes and sizes that the human body comes in. Its flexibility, adaptability, and compatibility with numerous printing materials makes it perfect for everything including prosthetic skin, hearing aid molds, and dental and orthopedic implants.
Three-dimensional printing has also shown potential for bone replication, with one such technology using digital scans to create custom implants that bond with the patient’s own facial bones. Other, in-development solutions work as a sort of high-flexibility bone-grafting agent, providing a highly adaptable “scaffold” on which bones can integrate and grow.
Other medical 3-D printing applications have little to do with material replacement and more to do with improving manufacturing processes. In 2015, Spiritam became the first 3-D-printed medication to winreceive FDA approval, bringing more benefits than just simplified manufacturing with it: The tablets are considerably more porous than traditionally manufactured medications, allowing them to melt in the mouth almost instantly and their layered construction allows for extremely precise active-ingredient dosages, lessening the variance between batches seen in traditionally manufactured medications.
The implications 3-D printing in medicine has for the pharmaceutical industry is far greater than a more consistent finished product, though. 3-D printing will eventually usher in a new era of personalized medications, allowing care providers to prescribe and produce patient-specific dosages based on numerous factors instead of relying on the dosages recommended by pharmaceutical companies. Pharmacies could also custom-print all-in-one medications based on provider’s findings, lowering costs and improving outcomes.
Not only has 3-D printing technology been used to create custom body part replacements such as limbs, skin, and bones, but researchers have also begun to successfully implanting “living” 3-D-printed tissue into test animals. And while this technology is still in the testing stage of development, there is already talk of 3-D-planted internal organs such as kidneys, which — when perfected — would effectively end the demand, waiting lists, and excruciating vetting and selection processes of the organ donor industry.
3-D-printed organs aren’t just close to realization — they’re already here, and will be used in human patients sooner than many of us think. Though the printing and implant process will naturally need much more research, testing, and approval, suitable materials for the process are already being developed, bringing the future that much closer to patients, providers, and facilities around the world.
Yes — 3-D-printed arms, bones, skin, and organs sound so astounding it’s almost unbelievable. And while the full potential of 3-D printing in medicine has yet to be unlocked, it’s already changing the healthcare industry and the lives of millions of people who will benefit from these medical printing procedures.