3D printing has become the most sort out technology in the world currently. This has led to applications in different sectors of the economy. Due to its vast applications, 3D printing has transformed many lives in different ways. Is 3D printing applicable in the medical sector? Yes, currently the medical sector has embraced this technology in various ways.
Also known as, ‘Rapid Prototyping’ 3D printing has enabled the creation of new objects similar to existing objects. Achieved by use of various materials like metals, ceramics, polymers, and biodegradable materials.
This technology has different applications in the medical sector such as:
- Jigs and Fixtures
- Teaching Aids
- End-Use products
In addition, 3D printing has enormous advantages in the medical sector like:
- 3D printing has been able to reduce the surgery time from ninety-seven hours to twenty-three hours.
- In addition, it has saved more lives since its invention.
- This technique has improved the efficiency and accuracy of surgery.
A prediction by Transparency market in March 2014, said that by 2019 the 3D printing in the medical sector would be worth a billion US dollars. To achieve 3D printing in the medical sector you need to use 2D radiographic pictures like CT Scans, MRI, or X-rays converting them to 3D printing files to allow the reproduction of structural, medical, custom-made, and complex medical structures.
Common Types of 3D Printers
For 3D printing to be efficient, high definition printers are necessary. The three types of 3D printers include:
1. Selective Laser Sintering
This printer works by using powder in printing new objects. By use, laser the shape of the object drawn in the powder to allow bonding. SLS can create ceramic, metallic, and plastic objects.
- Has a good chemical resistance.
- Parts possess high stiffness and strength.
- Bio compatible as per EN ISO 10993-1.
- Quickest rapid prototyping procedure for printing durable, functional, prototypes, and end-user parts.
- Complex objects and channels can be created without material trapping inside the printer.
- SLS has a surface permeability.
2. Fused Deposition Modeling
This printer is less expensive compared to SLS. It uses a print head similar to the Inkjet printer. Rather than ink, FDM uses heated plastic that it releases through the print head. Since the material is heated, it fuses easily in layers. Cooling of the object takes place for the object to be compact.
3. Thermal Inkjet Printing
This printer is amongst the common 3D printing machines. It uses electromagnetics, thermal, or piezoelectric techniques to deposit little droplets of biomaterials on a substrate conferring to digital instruction to make a replica of a human tissue.
Process of 3D Bio Printing Organs
- Generate a blueprint of an organ with its vascular design.
- Create a bio printing process plan.
- Isolate the stem cells.
- Differentiate the stem cells into organ-specific cells, blood vessel cells, and support average and load them into the printer.
- Bio print
- Set the bio printed organ in a bioreactor erstwhile to transplantation.
3D Printing Applications in the Medical Sector
Playing an important role in the medical sector, 3D printing has numerous applications in various departments. They comprise:
Tissue and Organ Creation
The main reason of creating printable organs and tissues is for transplantation. Currently, scientists are creating artificial livers, kidneys, and hearts. Fibrin polymer is the majorly used material in the creation of tissues and organs due to it having a cellular adhesion, which permits cell attachment.
3D bio printing offers additional necessary cons beyond the traditional regenerative technique, such as:
- Cell concentration
- Diameter of printed cells
- Drop volume
- Extremely exact cell placement
- High digital regulator of speed.
Having an enormous impact, 3D printing of tissues and organs has some challenges such as:
- For cellular sustainability, you need to vascularize the artificial organs.
- Material used is supposed to be feasible, printable, economical, ability to form required organs, and safe.
- Cell proliferation is provided through bio printing done in an artificial environment, hence cellular differentiation and morphology is not achievable.
This technique will enable us to deal with the current shortage of donor organs in the world.
- Formation of Customized Prosthetics
This new technology has led to the creation of customized prosthetics. Millions of people in the world currently do not have limbs. As per the United Nations report, amputations around two hundred thousand are done annually.
Creating a new customized prosthetic limb takes many months. Nevertheless, due to this invention it is now cheaper to get a prosthetic limb. 3D printing has enabled many people in the world living without limbs to have one.
Materials such as Titanium is relevant in the creation of 3D printed prosthetic limbs increasing the strength and toughness. 3D printing is slowly transforming the medical sector.
- Implants and Functional designs
Implants and functional designs 3D printing technique is evolving and transforming the medical sector. This has led to creation of custom implants such as:
- Mandible rebuilding
- Orthognathic surgery
- Skull base reconstruction
BIOMED, a research institute in Belgium successfully implanted the first 3D printed titanium mandibular prosthesis. Oxford Performance Materials implanted the first 3D printed skull implant in 2013.
By use of chondrocytes, silver nanoparticles, and silicon has enabled fabrication of a 3D printed ear able to detect electromagnetic frequencies. Currently almost 100% of the hearing aids creation is through 3D printing.
Today, before any surgery, 3D models of the anticipated surgery is printed and carried out before performing the real operation. Numerous medical surgeries have been successful due to this technique and creation of functional prototypes.
- Pharmaceutical research vis-à-vis drug dosage forms and Distribution Devices
Drug manufacturing could be standardized through the use of 3D printing to make them more feasible and simpler. 3D printing benefits patients who use medication with narrow therapeutic indices. This technology is challenging due to its ability to create limitless dosage forms.
3D printing has been able to produce dosage forms like:
- Nano suspensions
- Multilayered drug delivery devices
- Antibiotic printed micro patterns
- Mesoporous bioactive glass scaffolds.
Benefits of 3D Printing in Medical Applications
- Ability to create jigs and fixtures for usage in operating rooms.
- Models created through 3D printing are cheaper and efficient.
- Production of 3D models is quick, reliable, and accurate.
Challenges of 3D Printing in Medical Applications
- Copyright and patent fears.
- Unlikely prospects.
3D printing has vastly transformed the medical sector enabling lifesaving. With this technology, there is a future of more organ production through 3D printing.