3D printing serves numerous purposes in several industries, but it has four primary uses in the medical area. These four applications can be seen in the efforts to replace human organ transplants, speed up surgical operations, make less expensive versions of essential surgical gear, and improve the lives of those who rely on prosthetic limbs. Here are some of the ways 3D printing is changing the medical industry! This article will seek to explain the process of additive manufacturing and its role in the printing of tissues, surgery preparation, the manufacture of instruments, and its astounding role in the development of prosthetics.
What Is Additive Manufacturing?
Data computer-aided design (CAD) software or 3D object scanners are used to guide machines to deposit material layer by layer in precise geometric shapes. As the name implies, additive manufacturing involves adding material to an object to produce it. However, when creating an object using traditional methods, it is frequently required to remove material by milling, machining, carving, shaping, or other methods.
Although the phrases “3D printing” and “rapid prototyping” are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to additive manufacturing, each process is actually a subset of it. While this technology may appear to be new to some, in reality, it has been around for decades. It offers a perfect trifecta of better performance, complicated geometry, and easier production in the proper applications. As a result, individuals that actively embrace additive manufacturing—particularly those in the medical industry—have a plethora of options.
Bioprinting Tissues and Organs
Bioprinting is one of the various types of 3D printing utilized in the medical device industry. Bioprinters use a computer-guided pipette to layer living cells, referred to as bio-ink, on top of one another to construct artificial living tissue in a laboratory, rather than printing with plastic or metal. These tissue constructs, also known as organoids, can be employed in medical research because they are small organs. They’re also being tested as a less expensive alternative to human organ transplantation.
Organovo, a medical laboratory and research firm based in the United States, is experimenting with printing liver and intestine tissue to aid in the in-vitro study of organs, as well as in medicine discovery for particular disorders. The business published pre-clinical findings in May 2018 regarding the functionality of its liver tissue in a program for type 1 tyrosinemia, a disorder in which the body’s ability to metabolize the amino acid tyrosine is hampered due to an enzyme deficit.
How 3D Printing Can Help in Surgery Preparation
Another medical application of 3D printing is the creation of patient-specific organ replicas for surgeons to practice on before performing complex procedures. This method has been shown to speed up procedures and reduce patient trauma. This approach has been used effectively in a variety of surgeries, from full-face transplants to spinal procedures, and is now becoming standard practice. In Dubai, doctors successfully operated on a patient who had suffered a brain aneurysm in four veins using a 3D printed model of her arteries to map out how to safely travel the blood vessels. Using a 3D printed model of her donor’s kidney, surgeons in Belfast successfully rehearsed a kidney transplant for a 22-year-old lady in January 2018. Her father, who was her donor, had an incompatible blood group. In addition, his kidney was determined to contain a potentially malignant cyst, and the transplant was thus laden with difficulties. Surgeons were able to determine the size and location of the tumor and cyst using the 3D printed duplicate of his kidney.
The Viability of 3D-Printed Surgical Instruments
3D printers can make sterile surgical equipment like forceps, hemostats, scalpel handles, and clamps. Not only do 3D printers create sterile instruments, but some of them are also based on the ancient Japanese art of origami, which means they’re exact and can be created incredibly small. These devices can be used to operate on small areas without giving the patient any additional harm. One of the key advantages of employing 3D printing to manufacture surgical tools rather than traditional manufacturing processes is that the production costs are much lower.
How 3D Printing Is Affecting the Manufacture of Prosthetics
In the medical field, 3D printing can be utilized to create prosthetic limbs that are tailored to the wearer’s needs. Amputees sometimes have to wait weeks or months for prostheses when they go the traditional way; however, 3D printing greatly speeds up the process while also producing much less expensive items that provide patients with the same functionality as traditional prosthetics. Due to their cheaper price point, these 3D-printed prosthetics are especially suitable for usage with children who soon outgrow their prosthetic limbs.
The patient can also create a prosthetic that is tailored to their specific needs using 3D printing. For example, Body Labs has developed a device that allows patients to scan their own limbs and model their prosthetic on them to get a more realistic fit and appearance. Furthermore, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have worked to develop more comfortable prosthetic sockets.
Manufacturing Insoles and Orthoses
Many of the same significant price hurdles to treatment that exist in the realm of prosthetics also exist in orthotics and insoles. Custom orthoses, like many other patient-specific medical devices, are often out of reach because of their expensive cost and lengthy manufacturing time. That is no longer the case, thanks to 3D printing. 3D printing is being used by professionals all over the world to produce patient- and customer-specific insoles and orthoses, as well as a variety of other physical therapy instruments.
Physical treatment with tailored instruments had previously proven to be problematic. Patients were frequently subjected to long wait times and completed portions that caused discomfort. This status quo is about to change thanks to 3D printing. 3D printed insoles and orthoses have been shown to provide a better fit, improved treatment effects, and increased patient comfort.
We hope this article has helped you understand how 3D printing is changing the medical industry. If you are looking for a high-quality FDM 3D printing service, be sure to reach out to our team at Tangible Creative!