How Can 3d Printing Be Used In The Medical Field?
3D printing technology is a game-changing innovation that can be used to create personalized models for medical use. 3D printed models provide doctors with the ability to better understand their patients’ anatomy, allowing them to more accurately diagnose and treat conditions.
This blog post will explore how 3d printing has been used in the medical field so far, as well as why it may become an even more valuable tool in the future.
On This Page
- How can 3d printing be used in the medical field?
- Can you 3d print body parts?
- Can you 3d print a human heart?
- History of 3D printing in medicine.
- Disadvantages of 3D printing in medicine.
- Best 3d printer for medical applications
- Can you 3d print drugs?
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How can 3d printing be used in the medical field?
3D printing can be used to produce prosthetic limbs that are custom-made for the person who wears them. The person can design the prosthetic to suit their needs. Furthermore, 3D printing can produce less invasive surgical implants that will function much like the person’s original body part. For example, an individual who has lost a hand or foot can now use 3D printing to have a prosthetic device custom-made to perfectly fit their needs. This ensures their safety and comfort while performing daily tasks.
3D printing can also be used for custom medical equipment, such as stents. A stent is a tube-like structure that holds open arteries in the heart. This ensures sufficient blood flow to the organs of the body.
3D printing can be used to produce organ models that mimic how an actual human organ would look if it was sliced into thin horizontal and vertical layers. A 3D printer can even produce a model of an actual human organ that is anatomically accurate. This helps medical students learn how the organs in the body function, and they can also be used to help researchers perform experiments on cells and other microscopic organisms as well as tissues from humans or animals without harming them.
3D printing can be used to produce a cast or splint for a broken bone. The 3D printer would print the cast in the exact shape and size of the fractured part of the person’s body. This ensures that when the cast is finished, it will fit perfectly against the person’s skin without causing discomfort.
In conclusion, 3D printers have many different possible medical applications. They can be used to make prosthetic limbs that are customized for individual people, less invasive surgical implants that function much like natural human body parts, custom medical equipment such as stents used in open-heart surgery to ensure sufficient blood flow from the heart, organ models for use in learning how organs in the bodywork in a manner that does not harm living cells and tissues, and 3D printers can even be used to produce a cast or splint for broken bones.
3D printing provides great help in everyday life and allows medical professionals the ability to produce equipment and tools that make their jobs much easier, resulting in better patient care.
How Can 3d Printing Be Used In The Medical Field? (Cre: medicaldevice)
Can you 3d print body parts?
Yes, doctors and researchers use 3D printing for many reasons. Doctors can use it to make an exact copy of a patient’s body part. Doctors can also use 3D printing when they need to install an implant in the body.
Can you 3d print a human heart?
Yes, it is possible to use 3D printing to create a replica of the human heart. Doctors and researchers already have created working hearts that they can experiment on. For example, they can use these models to practice surgical techniques before surgery or test out new drugs or technologies. In some cases, doctors who want to do experimental surgeries may even put a patient’s life at risk if they don’t have access to a model of their patient’s actual hearts. 3D printing allows doctors to make accurate replicas of individual patients’ hearts so they will know how the surgery will turn out before going into the operating room. This way, no human lives would be endangered during the course of a procedure.
Who prints 3d hearts?
3D printing is done by 3D printer companies. They print many different things, including body parts.
How does a 3d heart work?
A 3D printed heart (and most other parts of the human body) is made up of small units that are connected to each other like cells in the human body. Each unit has its own function and together they make up organs or body parts.
Can you print an entire person with a 3d printer? No, it’s not possible to create an entire person with a 3d printer today because the printers only use plastic filaments to make shapes, but people are made up of more than just plastic filaments! For example, people are made up of skin and bones and blood vessels and tendons. These things cannot be made with 3D printers today.
Can you get a heart transplant with a 3d printed heart?
No, not yet at least. Although doctors can print out working models of the human heart to experiment with before surgery, they still need to replace the real organ itself because it is not feasible to put a plastic model into a human body. Hopefully, in the future, this will change!
History of 3D printing in medicine.
First attempts to build 3D printers for medical applications date back to the 80s of the last century. One of the first examples is the stereolithography apparatus called SLA, which was invented by Charles (Chuck) W. Hull in 1984 and later commercialized by his company 3D Systems. It works on the principle of photopolymerization.
A container with a liquid photopolymer is exposed with UV light, which starts the polymerization process converting liquid into the solid plastic layer by layer until the final 3d object is formed. Each layer adheres to the previous layer absolutely precisely due to the high resolution and accuracy of this technology, which facilitates the production of complex shapes useful when creating dental crowns, hip prostheses, or hearing aids. What about using this technology for surgeries?
In the early 2000s, several companies of medical devices presented their versions of 3d printed surgical guides, implants, and prostheses. These items were mainly for dental and orthopedic surgeries, but the number of various types of implants that could be custom-made to adapt a person’s body perfectly was growing rapidly.
There are a lot of successful examples – custom-printed airway splints for children with a complicated form of croup, 3D printed titanium jaw implanted in many people with deficient bone structure after cancer surgery. But there are also cases when such procedures failed.
Mostly due to a lack of knowledge about the quality and properties these 3D printable materials had – as they represented a new class of biomaterials with completely unknown properties.
From a theoretical point of view it’s easy to print any shape you imagine, but when this object has to be durable in the human body and fulfill its function – everything changes. Biomedical engineers had to learn again how to make implants strong enough, flexible enough, and resistant at the same time.
There were also cases when overhangs in prints broke during the printing process or after entering in contact with liquids (blood). For example, there is a very interesting case when 3d printed casts didn’t heal fractures as fast as usual plaster ones did. It turned out that moisture from exudate made layers between cast pieces stick together too much, allowing bacteria to easily grow inside.
Another problem was the pain that some patients experienced while wearing 3D-printed dental crowns for several months. They were solid and didn’t show any visible deformities, but it was later found out that metal powder used in this procedure could cause allergic reactions.
These failures forced the medical 3D printing industry to look for new solutions and better materials. Nowadays we can see much fewer defects and much higher quality of products made with these printers. Medical companies now understand the real value of high-quality custom implants and invest in improving technologies that allow making such items.
3d printed transparent jaw implant created by Dr. Samuel Jacob Yearsley from The University of Sydney. It’s another great example of the successful application of this technology to reconstructive surgery
How Can 3d Printing Be Used In The Medical Field? (Cre: pewtrusts)
Disadvantages of 3D printing in medicine.
Imagine a world where everyone has access to medical treatment, regardless of their ability to pay. A world where injuries are no longer an inevitable cause of suffering and death. The technology for this kind of healthcare revolution is ready, the only thing lacking is the infrastructure necessary for its widespread adoption. Also, visionaries like Elon Musk think it can be beneficial for mankind.
3D printing is probably the most important technology for this revolution, as it can be used to make cheap medical equipment on-site, where it’s needed. And that’s exactly what Open Sustainability lab is doing in Haiti with their startup MedsCart and their project “100k Garments vs 10k Gloves”.
The idea is to create an open-source platform for sharing medical designs and making them available to anyone in the world. This way people can print needed equipment, such as masks, gloves, stethoscopes, etc., on their 3D printers and donate it to clinics in need.
Currently, the lab has only one printer which they shipped to Haiti, but they plan to create more in the future.
What is also important- there are already many open source designs available on the web, like this model for stethoscopes that was made by Tomas Paciello. Open Sustainability lab gives them away for free and every member of the community can take part in donations.
So, what are the disadvantages of using 3D printing in medicine?
The first one is that you need a 3D printer. Not everyone has access to it and not everyone can afford to buy one. In developed countries, they cost around $400–$500 for an entry-level machine, but in developing ones, you’ll have to pay at least $1000. You also need a computer with design software, so the price will go up even more.
Also, you have to know how to use them and have some basic skills in 3D designing. This is not for everyone, especially since most people don’t have access to it and there’s a lack of open-source designs for medical equipment.
Another problem is the quality of 3D printed models. Most printers can’t make very thin walls or sharp inside corners, so they are not optimal for making medical equipment with a minimum amount of seams and places where germs might hide.
But what’s even more important- you have to use some common sense and be careful when choosing your 3D design. Always ask yourself if the model you want to print will be reliable enough for medical use and won’t break when used by a patient. This is especially important for devices that are going to be in contact with a human body, like stethoscopes or blood pressure cuffs.
It’s also not recommended to print medical equipment with materials that can be hazardous for human health. And because of the low prices and simple design, most 3D printers use PLA or ABS– materials that can’t be used to make medical models without special certification.
All in all, I think that 3D printing has huge potential for medicine and there’s a lot of room to grow and improve. 3D printers are getting cheaper, there’s a number of initiatives focused on open-source designs for medical equipment and the technology itself is developing rapidly. However, it still has some limitations that prevent it from bringing the healthcare revolution to every corner of the world.
How Can 3d Printing Be Used In The Medical Field? (Cre: hindawi)
Best 3d printer for medical applications
In this article, we will take a look at the printers suitable for medical practice. Most of them are also suitable for research purposes and the development of prototypes used in medicine. Three-dimensional printing allows the creation of individual tools or pieces that can’t be obtained from a standard shop.
For example, anatomical models with very accurate details of tissues, bones, vessels, or prostheses. Such models are used in anatomy teaching because they can show details that cannot be shown on a standard skeleton.
3D printers suitable for medical applications should also meet certain requirements (no less important than other parameters). They should allow to print small pieces, provide high-quality printing of individual elements, have open-source or at least free software, allow to choose material suitable for the finished work.
Here’s an example of 3D printers that meet these requirements:
Makerbot Replicator 2 is a combination of a desktop 3D printer and a general-purpose 3D device. It supports printing from SD cards, has an open-source software ReplicatorG, and allows to print from a computer or iOS device.
In addition to printing from an SD card and software ReplicatorG, you can also use the Makerware program that allows you to get a preview of the model being printed and change its settings directly in the application without going into the details of configuring the ReplicatorG.
FDM technology allows using of almost any material for printing (except ABS). The device can print using PLA, ABS, HIPS, and other types of plastic filament. Additionally, you can use wood or metal filaments with this 3D printer. It supports almost any type of material that is available on the market now and in the future.
Print volume 13,5 x 8,9 x 8,3 cm (5.3 x 3.5 x 3.2 in). Model is ideal for printing small pieces and anatomical models with details like organs or vessels. This device can print layers with a thickness of up to 100 microns (0,1 mm).
It has a heated platform that allows using ABS-type filaments. This 3D printer is able to print in three modes, including the Internet mode where the device will automatically start printing when a defined period of time elapses. The printer can automatically change filament when it runs out or cools down due to lack of support material.
Although not among the cheapest 3D printers, Makerbot replicator 2 is definitely one of the most affordable devices. The 3D printing market is still quite new and currently, it’s difficult to name a better option for those who want to buy their first device. This printer will offer high-quality printing with high resolution. You’ll be able to print not only everyday objects but also spare parts for machines or toys.
If you’ve already worked with 3D printers, then Makerbot replicator 2 will help you understand what can be done with this technology now and how good quality models look like. On the other hand, if you have no experience in using 3D printers, the device will let you see how 3D printers work and what can be done with them.
Can you 3d print drugs?
The simple answer is no, 3d printing cannot produce drugs. in fact it isn’t even acting as a drug printer. in the case of “3D printed organs”, the technology being used is actually called “bioprinting.” there are two ways of bioprinting – cell gun bioprinting and inkjet/gene gun based 3d printing. today, we will be focusing on gene-gun bioprinting.
for those who don’t know, a gene-gun is simply a tool which inserts genetic material into cells using high pressure gas to propel particles coated with DNA or RNA into living tissue or cultured cells. this method does not use chemicals, but rather uses something native to all living creatures – DNA.
the idea with gene gun printing is that the genetic material is inserted into cells and then these cells and their new genetic material (which carries genetic codes for desired proteins) divide and multiply to form new, living tissue. what you end up with when using this method is basically a 3d printed organ in a test tube. although it may sound like science fiction, scientists have already successfully used the technique on animals such as mice and rabbits to produce working kidneys, hearts, livers and lungs. they have even experimented with human cells in mice! all of this has been done with no chemicals required whatsoever.
Talking about chemical-free drug production brings us back to the question: can we use bioprinting and 3d printing to produce chemical-free drugs?
the answer once again is no, but it seems that the field of bioprinting has attracted some attention from both drug producers and “chemists” alike. in fact, this isn’t the first time we have written about printed organs being used to test drugs. back in july 2013, scientists at university college london had developed a robot which could perform human eye surgery before they went on to use 3d printed eyeballs to help them create “artificial vision.” meanwhile another group of scientists was busy producing “printed” pill-filled chocolate bars. while these seemed like an interesting idea at the time, the technology eventually proved unsuitable for testing drugs due to high trial failure rates.
3D printing technology has certainly come a long way this past year, but there are still many obstacles which need to be overcome before we see the first 3d printed drug on the market. on top of that, there is also no certainty that these drugs will ever go on sale at all simply because bioprinting and gene-gun-based 3d printing isn’t a viable method for producing chemicals in bulk.
3D printing technology has been used in the medical field to prototype prosthetics and other surgical tools. It is also being considered for use in public health care, where it could be used to create custom-made vaccines or drugs on demand.
As a consumer, you might not see the need for this type of innovation right now but as we continue down the path of an aging population and increased global travel issues, this new emerging technology will become more relevant than ever before!
Have any of these potential applications caught your interest?