3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has been around for the past thirty years. But it wasn’t until recent developments in the technology that people really began to take notice. Today, you can buy 3D-printed shoes, jewellery, pens, and even vehicles. Innovations with 3D-printed products are visible among an extensive range of industries. Perhaps the most exciting expansions in 3D printing can be found in the world of medicine, where 3D printing is starting to shake things up, especially as the price of 3D printing decreases and the technology becomes more open.
What once was just a small dot on the 3D printing market radar has grown into its own industry within an industry, and looks to continue to grow exponentially over the next ten years. The global 3D printing healthcare market recorded revenues of $585 million. There have been some remarkable advances over the last few years in bioprinting, prosthesis manufacturing and personalized medical implants. While most of these developments have been relatively small parts of the overall industry pie, now that they are starting to mature and find broader acceptance across the market, that share of the pie is anticipated to increase by leaps and bounds. Medical technologies are often pricey when they arrive on the market, becoming economical over time. However, a lot of the new 3D-printed solutions are coming in at a practical price point. This shift in approach has the capability to disrupt the terrifying trajectory of the mounting health care costs.
Strategies for development in a connected world
Part of the reason 3D-printed solutions are often economical is the technology: the procedure consists of constructing solid, three-dimensional objects from a digital model. This method means that objects can be assembled directly from a digital simulation, thereby enhancing precision and eliminating room for error.
Several 3D-printed medical solutions are still in their trial stages, but initial test results are looking encouraging in a variety of areas. In the research stage, researchers at Princeton University have used 3D-printing tools to develop a bionic ear that can catch radio frequencies far beyond the range of standard human capability, in a project to study the feasibility of connecting electronics with tissue. In cancer treatment alone, 3D printing is making massive leaps forward. In 2014, scientists created a fast, economical way to make facial prostheses for the patients who had undertaken surgical procedure for eye cancer, using facial scanning software and 3D printing. Another group of scientists found that it is probably to print patient-specific, biodegradable implants to more efficiently treat bone infections and bone cancer.
But medical 3D printing is not just for severe medical problems. In fact, it might become a part of conventional medical practice to treat a wide range of issues. As already-low manufacturing prices go down, 3D printing makes customizations more likely and, subsequently, formerly impossible treatments simpler.
Revolutionizing surgical practice
3D-printing technology can decrease operating time, reduce risks from errors or complications, and deliver better results for patients through the usage of 3D-printed surgical models and tools. In ten years, it’s extremely likely that 3D-printed medical models and custom surgical guides will be the typical practice for a variety of operations, including heart surgery, hip replacements, shoulder operations, spinal procedures, knee replacements, and many others.
Personalized, Efficient Care
Moreover, down the road, production of new organs and tissues that are seamless matches for each patient could remove the need for donations, and safeguard that every transplant is accepted by the patient’s body. These tailored healthcare solutions also come with massively improved productivity. In the example of prosthetics, hours of providers’ time and the manufacturing costs of producing a hand-measured prosthesis are avoided by merely scanning and printing a perfect mirror image of a limb as a guide for the prosthesis. And if it gets spoiled, another one can simply be print.
In fact, the capability to provide personalized medical solutions is one of the key advantages of 3D-printing. Unique parts are typically expensive and time-consuming to produce, but when printers are combined with the 3D imaging procedures already being used by the health industry, this becomes a much more feasible solution.
3D-printed medical applications, whether in the most tentative of stages or on the edge of transforming traditional medical practice, are all about three things: The capability to treat more people where it previously was not viable; improved results for patients; and less amount of time under the direct care of medical professionals. This keenness of developers in medical design to think outside the norm with 3D printing is driving the engine of change in health care.
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