How 3D printing is impacting the medical field

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3D printing, which dates back to the 1980s, has had its greatest impact in manufacturing, and increasingly in recent years it has shown its potential in the medical field, as it is used in the development of prosthetics, replacement organs and medical equipment.

So what exactly is 3D printing?

This technology creates a three-dimensional object by reading a digital blueprint and reproducing successive layers using filaments and ultraviolet light. One of its main advantages is that it does not require the expensive equipment necessary for traditional manufacturing, which speeds up the production of products. In many hospitals, surgeons use 3D renderings of a patient’s anatomy to practice procedures before surgery, and 3D printers can be used to customize body parts such as knee implants.

Some $20 billion in global spending is expected to be spent on 3D printing by 2025, nearly three times more than in 2017, according to GlobalData estimates. In the medical sector, the increase in 3D spending is attributable to the needs of an aging population.

An article on the American Hospital Association website reports that in 2019, 113 hospitals had centralized 3D facilities for point-of-care manufacturing, up from just three in 2010. And according to Pew Trust, the healthcare market 3D printing healthcare has increased significantly during the COVID -19 pandemic when many hospitals depended on this technology for the deployment of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical devices.

The article describes three specific ways in which 3D printing is impacting clinical care and how it could transform it in the future:

Implants and prosthetics—The FDA approved 3D technology to develop more than dental implants, one of the first medically approved uses of 3D printing. Now, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, technology has the potential to completely transform how surgeons treat patients with severe musculoskeletal injuries and improve fit and function of prostheses.

Anatomical models: 3D printers can produce extremely accurate and detailed anatomical models to help surgeons prepare for complex procedures, resulting in better outcomes and lower cost. 3D technology also reduces the time spent in surgery.

Medical equipment – The use of 3D printing to build medical devices, including forceps, clamps and retractors, plays a key role in the increased need for rapid development of medical equipment, helping to reduce the problems of Supply Chain.

A cost-benefit analysis undertaken by Medical-Technology.nrdigital.com has shown the benefits of introducing 3D printing technology to hospitals, particularly as an aid in complex surgeries.

The June study was led by Dr Atanu Chaudhuri, associate professor of technology and operations management at Durham University Business School, with colleagues from ORT Braude College of Engineering in Israel and the University of Denmark in South. Chaudhuri admitted that 3D printing represents a significant financial investment for hospitals, but said the benefits “far outweigh the costs for both hospitals and patients.” And, he added, “We need to know where to apply it and how to quantify the benefits.”

He also thinks that 3D printing should be a collaboration between surgeons and engineers, because surgeons who learn how to design a 3D printing guide will have an advantage over others. “But, there are some surgeries that have not been attempted before, especially for small children, that could now be done with much more confidence,” he said, adding that eventually the 3D printing technology will be fully integrated into the medical program.

Although 3D printing has been used in healthcare for over a decade to make titanium and stainless steel implants, a plastic called PEEK will allow the technology to be used in more labs and clinics around the world. the world. PEEK is a colorless organic thermoplastic polymer, made up of macromolecules composed of many repeating subunits, called monomers.

Savi Baveja, director of strategy and incubation at Hewlett Packard, wrote recently that 3D printing and other new technologies are beginning to “deliver the best results long promised to personalized medicine.”

The demand is already significant – the market for personalized medical solutions, including personalized orthotics and prostheses, is valued at approximately $10 billion – and the need is growing at an exponential rate. WHO estimates that one billion people need assistive products today and more than two billion people worldwide are expected to need at least one assistive product by 2030.

More and more hospitals around the world are taking advantage of emerging technologies such as 3D printing, which helps clinicians literally “see” and interact with anatomy without harming the patient. The use cases extend far beyond that, however, to prosthetics, anatomical models, and medical models, and with the increasing needs of an aging population in the years to come, other applications will surely see the same. day.

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