3D Printing Providing Revolutionary Benefits For Healthcare Industry
When it comes to printing, two-dimensional thinking is so 20th century.
Numerous industries across the world are discovering the extremely profitable reality of 3D printing and the numerous growth opportunities it provides their businesses. This groundbreaking process allows the creation of parts and tools through additive manufacturing at rates much lower than traditional machining.
Perhaps no industry has capitalized on the immense, limitless value of 3D printing technology than the healthcare industry, which has discovered 3D printing’s ability to provide personal, specified medical solutions for patients.
Medical advancements using 3D printing are no longer just the plots of science fiction films. The technology is improving patient diagnoses and treatments, and most strikingly, saving lives.
The stunning examples of 3D printing improving, enhancing and personalizing patient care can be seen throughout the industry and around the globe.
3-Dimensional, Groundbreaking Medical Advancements
In London in 2015, a two-year-old girl born with a serious heart defect underwent a life-saving operation to patch a hole between her ventricles. The patch, as BetaNews.com reported, needed to be constructed with the utmost precision. Thus, doctors at London’s St. Thomas Hospital turned to 3D printing to ensure the operation was a success.
In Buffalo, N.Y., the Jacobs Institute (JI), a non-profit medical innovation center, is using 3D printing to further its mission of creating the next generation of medical technology to treat vascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes.
Plus, the medical industry is treating even the most unusual of patients with 3D technology. As BetaNew.com reported, a sea turtle injured after a collision with a motor boat had its beak replaced with a 3D printed prosthetic.
Also, major cosmetics firms like L’Oreal are partnering with specialty firms like Organovo to print human skin. Though primary used for the beauty industry, the overlaps of biology and 3D printing could deliver benefits for victims and patients suffering from skin conditions.
Ongoing research is being conducted into the possibility of 3D printers being able to replicate the complex organs that sustain the human body. For example, Beta News notes, Princeton University researchers have successfully printed a prototype outer ear from hydrogel, human cells and silver nanoparticles. Tailor-made joints and bones have also been produced.
3D printing’s remarkable ability to cut the cost of unique parts makes personalized medical solutions a more viable, affordable solution for patients. In 2014 alone, printed body parts produced more than $500 million in sales.
Still, we are a long way and several big hurdles before 3D printers can be considered a means of full organ replacement. But 3D printers are being utilized to provide prosthetics at a much lower cost than previously possible. Certain body prosthetics such as hands can run as much as $10,000 and be cost prohibitive for most patients. Plus, young children can quickly outgrow their prosthetics. By contrast, 3D printers can help produce customizable prosthetic hands for a few hundred dollars, making them much more accessible for most patients.
Brain Research & Modeling
What if 3D printing technology could be used to predict the possibility and likelihood of traumatic brain injuries, like aneurysms?
That’s the theory University of Buffalo biomedical engineers have been studying. With neurosurgeon and JI chief medical officer Adnan Siddiqui, PhD, MD, FACS, FAHA consulting, UB engineers developed a process to 3D-print brain arteries to better understand brain aneurysms and strokes. Painting layers of silicone over a Play-Doh model of a brain aneurysm, engineers found it created a hollowed-out blood vessel. Purchasing a Stratasys Eden 260V 3D printer, UB engineers took brain artery modeling to the next level. JI is now working to transform patient scans into operable models for surgical planning.
For patients, 3D printing’s most common advantage is its ability to help doctors improve surgical planning.
“Additive manufacturing allows surgeons to reduce unexpected risks by performing the procedure on 3D printed models of the affected area prior to surgery,” Scott Rader, general manager of medical solutions for Stratasys, wrote in a Eureka Magazine piece on medical advancements using 3D printing technology. “By converting MRI scans of the patient into a 3D printed model, hospitals can pinpoint hidden problematic areas previously only raised by X-rays.”
A quarter-century after its origins, 3D printing technology is making wowing advancements in the medical field: improving processes, operation results and saving lives. Still, the most exciting aspect of 3D printing’s benefits to the healthcare industry is its future. The technology’s greatest implementations and advancements may yet to be discovered.