3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has become wildly popular since it was first developed in the 1980s. The technology involves recreating a digital model using successive layers of appropriate material to create a new, touchable version. The technique has been utilized in several industries, including the medical device industry.
In many cases, original digital models from Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), ultrasound, X-rays, and Computed Tomography (CT) scans are fed into a 3D printer. It is estimated that the 3D printing niche in the medical industry will be worth at least $3.5 billion by 2025. The niche is expected annual growth is expected to increase by 17.7 percent between the year 2017 and 2025.
Below are the most significant benefits 3D printing is set to bring in the medical device field.
Bio-Printing Organoids and Tissues
One of the major sectors of 3D printing in the medical device world is bio printing. Instead of printing using metal or plastic, bio-printers make use of living cells layered by a computer-guided pipette. These cells are then systematically layered on top of each other to recreate artificial living tissue in the lab.
The organoids or tissue constructs are then used in medical research as they imitate living organs, but on a smaller scale. The organs can then be used in trials, which is a cheaper option compared to using human organ transplants.
Already, some companies have recreated the liver and intestinal tissue in order to study the effects of drugs. Another institute has successfully recreated the human brain with intentions of studying drug and disease effects on the organ. Moreover, 3D printing has already been used in printing skin grafts that are applied directly to burn victims.
3D printing in the medical world can be used in the production of prosthetic limbs, which are customized to fit and suit a particular wearer. The traditional route has had amputees waiting weeks or even months before receiving their prosthetics. However, 3D printing, in combination with rapid tooling injection (find out more), speeds up the process.
In addition, 3D printing means that patients will receive cheaper products that offer the same functionality as that of traditionally manufactured products. A lower price point is particularly advantageous when you take into consideration the use of prosthetics by children – who tend to outgrow their artificial limbs quickly.
Furthermore, 3D printing allows the design of prosthetic limbs that directly correspond to their needs and requirements. For instance, some companies are already allowing patients to create prosthetic based on their limbs. This is done through scanning that helps create a limb that is more naturally fitting – and looks realistic as well.
Enhancing and Expanding Medtech Opportunities
3D printing medical applications are rapidly expanding and are set to revolutionize how healthcare is delivered. Today, 3D printing is a much more effective and cost effective manufacturing option when it comes to customized medical devices like hearing aids, dental implants, surgical instruments, knee implants, and many more.
In addition to the customization of medical devices, 3D printing will disrupt the medical device market by bringing in new entrants. The new entrants will bring in an era of optimized device development and design, increased productivity, reduced costs and ultimate revolutionizing of health care standards.
Through the manufacture of products that cannot be created via any other way, 3D printing will potentially revolutionize healthcare standards by addressing needs that were previously unmet. Already, 99 percent of the hearing aids on the market are custom-made via 3D printing. Since everybody’s ear canal is uniquely shaped, 3D printing makes it possible to print custom-shaped devices cost-effectively and efficiently.
Expect to see 3D printing become even more popular at the point-of-care where it will accelerate treatment while reducing numbers of patient visits. Furthermore, 3D printing will offer less costly options to standard treatments, which will make advanced treatment even more widely accessible. For instance, people dealing with multiple chronic diseases may benefit from a multi-dose medication created at the point of care.
As 3D printed models become on-demand and patient customized, expect patients, healthcare providers and payers to reap mutual benefits. Patient-specific models will help clinicians plan for successful surgeries in a risk-free environment. In turn, patients will recover faster and an assurance of better outcomes after every surgery.
Healthcare providers will realize reduced operating room times as well as hospital bed utilization. The benefits of improved surgical planning also include increase profit margins.
The advances in the medical devices world using 3D printing technology are already exciting and significant. 3D printing technologies are today even more sophisticated and new materials are always discovered, meaning that you expect to see applications that are even more novel. Some of these applications include complex implantable organs, 3D printed drugs, drug delivery devices, and bio-printed assays for drug testing and research!
This article is sponsored by outreachmama.