How 3d printing will impact medicine
I’ve followed 3d printing in medicine very closely and recently attended the Inside 3d Printing Conference medical track in NYC. I learned about some new and upcoming applications for 3d printing and its clear that the technology of additive manufacturing will make a large impact on all industries, with medicine and surgery at the forefront.
3d printers work by building layers of materials to create a physical object. There are several types of printers, but the most basic extrusion version is essentially a tiny glue gun that builds a structure, driven by a computer. In the video above I explain it in a simplistic way with a handheld printer called the 3doodler.
3d printing supports surgical customization
One of the amazing benefits of 3d printing is that custom surgical implants, either synthetic or made of living tissue, can be created in a short period of time. One U.S. company is currently making custom bone-like implants and others are surely on the way. Eventually, tissue regeneration and living cells will be able to be created with a printer, specifically made for one person. Customization will benefit patients by improving implant fit, function, and surgical placement.
3d-printed surgical planning models
3d printers are used to create models of a person’s anatomy before surgery is performed. In this way for complex cases, surgeons can plan and visualize a procedure before walking into the operating room.
3d printing sparks medical innovation
Surgical tools and devices can be prototyped with 3d printers, cutting costs and making the design and fabrication process more accessible to doctors who have new and practical ideas. I used 3d printers to design and create 2 surgical instruments that didn’t previously exist in the marketplace.
3d printers facilitate crowdsourced volunteerism
At the Inside 3d Printing Conference I learned of an organization called E-NABLE that gives free 3d printed hand prosthetics to children and adults who need them. Volunteers with printers in the E-NABLE community build and assemble the parts from plans that are available for free. Their program has reached children around the world.
The hands can be made with superhero-themed colors and spare parts can be made by the users themselves. Many of the recipient children experienced dramatically improved social interactions and acceptance of their disabilities. I urge you to visit their website learn about this truly touching and inspiring result of the 3d printing revolution: enablingthefuture.org
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