Medical Aspects of 3D Printing – From Prosthetic to Organs
What we know as 3D printing, aka Additive Manufacturing, has been around for some time now. What started in 1984 has really blossomed in the recent years due to the advances in technology.
Nowadays, everything including your attire, accessories, stationery and even your vehicles can be produced using a 3D printer. The development game for 3D printers is still being assessed by the Software gurus. ThingMaker, a 3D printer for kids has just been unveiled by Mattel.
There was a 35.2% increase in 3D printing industry in 2014. Then a slight slowdown was experienced by the company in 2015, the 3D printed innovations could be seen in range of industries. But the field that really flourished after the introduction of 3D printing in it was the field of medicine. Things started to shake up after this introduction as the cost of 3D printing dropped and the technology became readily accessible.
Usually when Medical Technologies enter the market, their products are priced really high, but this is not the case with recent 3D printed innovations. Their solutions are reasonably priced. The effects of these solutions has the potential to disturb the alarming trajectory of rising health care costs, at the moment when pressure has been on the health care system by the aging Baby Bloomers.
Medical applications of 3D-Printing include 3D printed skin for burn victims and airway splints for tracheobronchomalacia affected babies, tracheobronchomalacia makes the tiny airways around the lungs of the baby susceptible to collapsing. These are the first ever 3D implants for children and has been designed to grow with time along with the patient. Three children between the aged in between 3 and 16 months have been successfully provided with the implant. These splints cost $10 each and can be produced in merely a few hours.
Another reason that leads to the effectiveness in the prices of the 3D printed solutions, is that the process involves building of solid, 3D objects from a digital model, this uses additive processes that include successive layers that are assembled on top of one other and this allows the user to build the desired object. This removes the room for error and provides the user with increased precision and allows assembly directly from the digital model. This is quite dissimilar from the previous techniques used for manufacturing, this does not involve removal (using cutting, drilling and chopping etc.) instead it involves addition. What 3D printing actually gets around is the issues like these such as waste and extraction costs.
A number of medical solutions that are in experimental stages are all 3D printed. In a variety of areas, the initiation has been quite promising.
Scientists at Princeton University have been researching 3D printing tools that enabled them in creating a bionic ear, this allows them to hear radio frequencies, far beyond the scope of a normal human being’s range of audible frequencies. This is part of the project researching if meddling with technology and tissue is feasible.
This was the first step in a series of steps to develop a fully functional organ, and their first attempt was able to not only replicate a human ear in terms of ability but also surpassed the human limits. According to an online article about this research, “[The field of cybernetics] has the potential to generate customized replacement parts for the human body, or even create organs containing capabilities beyond what human biology ordinarily provides.”3D printed prosthetic are an image that provides hope for 3D printed livers, kidneys and lungs to become a reality some day and save a lot of lives.
3D bioprinting also has a number of other advances in this field. A number of them have been a part of a successful surgery or treatment. In cancer, huge leaps are being advanced by researchers using 3D printing. In 2014, facial prostheses was developed by researchers at an inexpensive cost. This process assisted in eye cancer surgeries for people and used 3D printing and facial scanning software. Just recently another team of researchers found out that cure for bone infections and bone cancer can also be assisted using biodegradable implants that help effectively.
This medical aspect of 3D printing is not just for extremely serious issues, this is in fact targeted for the mainstream market and will be helping a wide range of people. 3D printed casts, 3D printed ankle replacements, 3D printed pills have been in development for the past two years. This has been encouraging success rates. For example, the 3D printed cast is known to heal bones 40-80% faster when compared to traditional casts. New pill shapes have been introduced using 3D printing and this alters the drugs’ release rates.
3D printing allows more optimizations and consequently leads to what have been thought of as impossible in the field of treatments as it allows low-manufacturing prices.