A Brief History of 3D Printing and Five Ways it’s Affecting the Medical Industry

woman with a prosthetic leg
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3D printing technology has come a long way since it was first invented in the 1980s. Chuck Hull invented it and created the first 3D printer in 1984. Since then the technology has been used extensively in the medical field since the mid-2000s. Here are five ways 3D printing is affecting the medical industry:

3D Printed Implants and Prosthetics

One of the most obvious ways 3D printing is changing healthcare is by creating printed prosthetics. In the past, prosthetics were bulky, expensive, and often uncomfortable to wear. Today, however, thanks to advances in 3D printing technology, both prosthetics and implants are now more comfortable and affordable than ever. It’s affecting the prosthesis and even the dental market. Here are some of the products made affordable by 3D printing.

3D Printed Leg Prosthesis

In 2012, a company called Limbitless Solutions created a custom-made 3D printed bionic arm for a seven-year-old boy named Alex Pring. The arm was made using a Stratasys Dimension SST 3D printer and cost just $350. Thanks to the use of 3D printing, the company could produce a fully functioning bionic arm for a fraction of the cost of traditional methods.

3D Printed Veneers

Many in the dental industry require 3D printers because there is a growing need for dental appliances. One particular appliance that many people need is veneers. This appliance helps people who have gaps in their teeth or those who have crooked teeth. With 3D printing, dentists can now create customized versions of this appliance that are more comfortable and natural-looking than ever before.

3D Printed Breast Implants

In 2013, a company called Ideal Implant created the world’s first 3D-printed breast implants. The implants are made using a particular type of plastic that is both biocompatible and strong. Thanks to the use of 3D printing, the company can create implants that are more realistic and natural-looking than ever before. As a result, many are now claiming that 3D-printed implants will be the way into the future because they’re healthier, considering that they’re made from human tissue.

3D-Printed Organs

Although the industry is not quite yet, scientists are working on perfecting the technology needed to print functional human organs using 3D printers. This would be a game-changer for the transplant industry, as there would no longer be a need for donors. Additionally, this technology would help cut surgical wait times as patients would no longer have to wait for an organ to become available.

A 3D printer being used in a lab

The industry is doing this by using a process called bioprinting. This is where living cells are placed on a “bio-ink” and then printed using a 3D printer. The hope is that one day, this technology will be able to print functional organs that can be transplanted into humans. Many experts believe it will revolutionize transplantation and increase the human life span by more than ten years.

3D-Printed Medicines

In addition to organs, scientists are also working on perfecting the technology needed to print medicines using 3D printers. This would be a massive boon for those who live in rural areas or remote parts of the world where access to drugs is limited. It would also help to cut down on costs as pharmaceutical companies would no longer need to produce large quantities of medications that may go unused.

Additionally, these medicines are great for those with allergies or other sensitivities as they can be tailor-made to avoid any adverse reactions. It’s also worth noting that this technology could help end the global counterfeit drug issue.

Surgical Guides

Another way 3D printing is changing healthcare is by creating surgical guides. Surgeons use these guides to plan surgeries and ensure that they are performed correctly. Surgeons can also use them in training to learn new techniques or procedures. Surgical guides have been shown to reduce surgical errors by up to 50%, making them a vital tool in the operating room.

Medical Devices

Lastly, 3D printing is also used to create various medical devices, such as artificial hips and pacemakers. These devices are typically made from biocompatible materials compatible with the human body and can be safely implanted into patients without causing adverse reactions. Additionally, because they can customize these devices to each patient’s needs, they tend to be much more effective than their mass-produced counterparts.

As you can see, there are countless ways that 3D printing is changing healthcare for the better. From printed prosthetics to personalized medicines, this technology is revolutionizing how medical professionals care for their patients. Moreover, as this technology continues to evolve, many can only expect even more amazing medical breakthroughs in the years ahead.

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