How 3D printing will revolutionize health?
What is a 3D printer?
It is in the 1960s that the first concepts of 3D printing technology appeared. This technology can be applied to different fields such as research, health or industry.
3D printing technology is based on a three-dimensional manufacturing process of an object. In industry, this process is called “additive manufacturing”.
To manufacture an object in 3D, computer-aided design (CAD) software is used. By computerizing the object, it will be possible to manufacture the object using a manufacturing process in successive layers that will give the final appearance of the object. To have a quality object, it is necessary to be trained in computer-aided design.
There are several types of 3D printers. Several types of materials and layer addition techniques depending on the type of printer used.
3D printing technology in the medical field
Medical 3D printing is growing quickly and will revolutionize healthcare. Medical uses for 3D printing can be organized into several broad categories: tissues and organ manufacturing; the creation of prostheses, customized implants and anatomical models; and pharmaceutical research.
Also, this type printing medicine can offer many benefits, including customization of medical products, improved productivity, democratization of design and manufacturing at the practitioner level, and better collaboration in the health journey.
Allow surgeons to practice before surgery
Even if they will not be able to perform such procedures soon, surgeons can prepare for them. 3D printing also makes it possible to produce models of human organs from imagery from scanners or 3D ultrasound. These synthetic organs are made of different materials and textures to reproduce in a very realistic way those of the human body.
3D printing to help burn victims
3D printing is a reactive technology that can quickly adapt its production. In an emergency, this process could offer new possibilities and allow various injuries to be treated. That’s what Jame Yoo believes, who, when he was at Wake Forest School of Medicine, started working on a 3D skin printer. What differs with this printer is that the skin will not be printed as an independent object, it will be directly incorporated into the patient’s body. James Yoo has succeeded in creating a printer that can print directly on the bodies of burned people.
Surgery is currently the main field of application for healthy 3D printing. This process makes it possible to create customized prostheses that are perfectly adapted to each patient in biocompatible but durable materials (titanium, plastic).
Where, until now, the custom-made solution has been to model the prosthesis by hand, 3D medical imaging combined with a 3D printer creates an exact replica of the bone to be replaced.
Scientific communications are progressing at a rapid pace: in February, an Australian surgeon implanted two titanium vertebrae in a patient with rare cervical cancer; in October, Chinese doctors implanted a titanium sternum in a patient with a tumour; in August, a pelvis was created for a teenager with bone cancer. In 2014, a part of a Plexiglas skull was applied to a Dutch woman whose bones were thickening to the point of compressing her brain. 3D printing is also adapted to dental care needs (crowns, bridges).
High-tech low-cost prostheses
Previously, creating a suitable prosthesis consisted of manual modelling by an orthopaedic specialist. By combining 3D medical imaging and relief printing, an exact replica of the bone (limb) to be replaced is now obtained. Such a procedure allows the amputee to benefit from a custom-made prosthesis, i.e. one designed to adapt exactly to the shape of the residual bone part. The benefit of such customization also addresses the anatomical problems specific to many patients, for whom the placement of a standard prosthesis has never been satisfactory. The second advantage is that the construction of the aid uses biocompatible but durable materials such as titanium or plastic polymers.
Finally, the latest contribution of 3D printing technology in the field of prostheses concerns the economic side.
3D printing of medicines
Another promising aspect of the technology is the possibility in a few years’ time to see your medicines printed in 3D. The technology is there, but the problem is more regulatory. The pharmaceutical industry is highly regulated, and many requirements must be met to be sell on the market. This new breakthrough in the world of medicine is incredibly encouraging for years to come. In addition to prescribing medication doses that are perfectly adapted to patients, this greatly increases the effectiveness of the product.