Over the years, 3D printing has turned out to be one of the major breakthroughs that have led to improved business processes in various kinds of industries. The 3D printing technology has been around for quite some time now but it hasn't been until the recent advances that people really began to take notice.
Precision and personalisation have turned out to be the major aspects that have made 3D printing a success among the industries. The 3D printing industry has grown rapidly in the recent years. In fact, 3D printing is expected to grow into a $21 billion industry by the year 2020.
With the outstanding possibilities, 3D printing has turned to be of major benefit for the healthcare industry. Let's take a look at the impact of 3D printing on healthcare.
Printing out living tissue is no longer an impossible feat. With the popularity of 3D printing, this has turned out to be one of the major breakthroughs in medical science.
In fact, researchers at the University of Bristol have developed a bio-ink from stem cells. This ink has been engineered to print out tissue structures like tracheal cartilage ring of full size.
“This is a very exciting development which we believe could lead to a revolution in the treatment of diseases like osteoarthritis and other causes of tissue damage. This approach is taking the scientific world by storm in terms of its approach to regenerative medicine,” Dr. Adam Perriman, lead researcher and an expert in cellular medicine at the University of Bristol pointed out, “We believe this work will also help in the development of this new field bioprinting, which can be applied in other areas of medicine, including the treatment of burns, and even the development of organs.”
While 3D printing human organs is still a distant future, the process of 3D printing living tissue has paved the way for the same.
3D Printed Prosthetics
Thousands of people around the world have been living with limb loss. Numerous amputations are performed every year. Getting a prosthetic limb can turn out to be a matter of weeks or even months. Even with a quick surgery, the artificial limb may not fit the person accurately. This is where 3D printing limbs becomes relevant.
3D printing not only solves the problem of affordable printing but can also enable people to print custom-fit prosthetics right from the comfort of their homes. Additionally, this also makes the process of the replacement of prosthetics easier.
Many open source initiatives have enabled people who own a 3D printer to print out customised prosthetics.
3D Printed Pills
As 3D fashion designers started printing out garments and 3D architects were printing out entire houses with the help of a 3D printer, the world of medicine caught up quickly. The world's first 3D printed medicine has already been approved. Sprite levetiracetam, a drug that helps in controlling the seizures that are caused by epilepsy.
With the help of 3D printing, a porous pill can be created which dissolves easily when it comes in contact with a liquid and is very easy to swallow, even in large doses. According to Dr. Mohamed Albed Alhnan, pharmaceutics lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, “For the last 50 years, we have manufactured tablets in factories and shipped them to hospitals. For the first time, this process means we can produce tablets much closer to the patient.”
Apart from that, 3D printing can be used to print pills in a variety of shapes as well. Utilising a technique known as 'hot melt extrusion', researchers at the University College London's School of Pharmacy have developed a technique to print pills in the shapes of doughnuts, pyramids etc.
The benefits of 3D printing in medicine go way beyond printing prosthetics. The 3D printing technology can also be used to print hospital equipment to help provide a more efficient and personalised care to the patients. For example, patients undergoing proton therapy need to be rigid during the process. With the help of 3D printing, a customised 'cage' can be created for every patient to ensure perfect fit.
3D printing technology has limitless possibilities when it comes to healthcare. With the emergence of digital healthcare, the future opportunities of 3D printing could be quite exciting.