3D printing has been used in medicine since the early 2000s when the technology was first used to make dental implants and medical models in dentistry.
Since then, the usage of 3D printing in medicine has expanded significantly, with doctors around the world describing ways to use 3D printing to produce ears, skeletal parts, airways, jawbones, eye parts, cell cultures, blood vessels, stem cells, and vasculature, tissues and organs, new dosage forms and much more.
The use of files with medical models for 3D printed medical parts provides an opportunity for the exchange of work among researchers. Instead of trying to reproduce the parameters described in scientific journals, doctors can use and modify ready-made 3D models.
To this end, in 2014, the National Institutes of Health established the exchange to facilitate the exchange of open source 3D models for medical and anatomical devices, custom devices, clinical solutions, clinical trials, medical imaging, and mockups of proteins, viruses, and bacteria.
Modern medical use of 3D printing can be divided into several broad categories: tissue engineering and organ fabrication, prostheses, orthopedic implants, anatomical models, surgical guides, instrument printing, custom-made prosthetics, patient education, rapid prototyping, orthopedic surgeons’ training, and pharmaceutical research.
Let’s know in detail about medical research on 3D printing in medicine. This will help you realize if 3D printing method can produce patient-specific surgical models or not and if there is any future or not!
What Does It Mean By Medical 3D Printing?
3D printing in the medical field is deployed increasingly in both research-based and clinical healthcare activities.
This involves the production of physical imitation of anatomical design using a 3D printer (also called additive manufacturing) method.
A digital computerized model is made to describe the design to be printed, while patient-specific models of living organs (like a donor’s kidney) for 3D printing are obtained from 3D medical imaging procedures like X-Ray CT and MRI.
Small batches (even single units) can then be made because of the speed, flexibility, and low cost of the 3D printing procedure. The models help hospitals and also other point-of-care (in short POC) institutions in planning surgeries, as well as serve as a support for explanation or teaching of complex medical ideas, for instance, to a patient who is about to receive surgery.
How Does 3D Printing Work In Health Care?
3D printing technology in medicine is a vital part of the innovative procedure named additive manufacturing. This means making three-dimensional solid objects using a digital file.
However, do you know how this 3D printing technology works? If you do not know then continue reading the article…
Many hospital labs are using 3D printing to create surgical models and manuals and many companies are using this technology to make personalized prostheses and orthoses, splints, and other assistive medical equipment. 3D printing helps doctors better control the process of patients’ rehabilitation, and patients better understand what is happening in their bodies.
For the medical industry, 3D printing has a unique value because it offers incredible opportunities to improve the quality of life and save lives, as has been proven in a variety of personal medical devices, prostheses, and robotic arms.
Modern 3D printing technologies have changed our lives and made them much easier. Today, completely unexpected things can be printed on a 3D printer, including medical ones.
3D Printing In Medicine
• Production of implants of the upper and lower jaws in dentistry;
• Printing of an artificial spine, intervertebral discs;
• Skull and Bones of the cranium;
• Other bones: scapula, collarbone, ilium of the pelvis;
• Joint printing: knee joint, hip joint;
• Auricle – bionic ear;
• Liver tissue (for drug testing);
• Orthopedic products.
Uses Of Medical 3D Printing
The main function of 3D printing of organs is their transplantation. However, the use of these technologies is not limited to this area, they are involved in various fields of medicine.
• Organ transplantation is the main goal of growing organs based on 3D printers.
• Bone replacement. Based on the 3D scanning data, it is possible to rebuild the bone model that the patient needs and print it on a printer.
• Skeleton support. With the help of 3D printing, special structures are created. Supporting the human skeleton, which greatly speeds up and facilitates the process of human recovery.
• Testing of drugs. The creation of human organs and tissues using 3D technologies will help stop drug testing on animals.
• Creating organs will allow surgeons to practice their skills on printed organs.
How To Get Started with 3D Medical Printing
3D printing becomes even more accessible with time, and medical professionals have found even more imaginative medical applications for 3D printing technology to deliver personalized solutions.
In case you are a software developer or a designer trying to get started with 3D modeling & printing, it is easier than you think. Initiate by installing a 3D modeling software and learn the basics of a new device.
As technology evolves anatomical models and also other medical models need improvement. Thus, keep yourself updated.
With the unbelievable things taking place with 3D printing technology in the medical field, including thorough 3D model prosthetics, customized tools, synthetic organs, and bone reconstruction, there is without any doubt a bright future for 3D printing in the health care sector.
What Are The Benefits Of Medical 3D Printing?
Medical 3D printing has the following advantages:
• 3D printing of structures of the highest level of complexity, completely similar to prototypes, lightening their weight, etc.
• Saving materials & labor resources
• High accuracy and detail, taking into account the anatomical parameters of a particular patient
• High print speed
• Cost reduction of medical products
• A large number of innovative high-tech materials, including a wide range of consumables that are suitable for implantation in the body
• Reduction of production terms and, as a result, timely provision of medical care.
The Future Of Pharma: 3D Printed Drugs
3D printing technologies are already being used in pharmaceutical research and personalized medicine, and their scope is constantly expanding.
3D printing technology allows precise dose management of drugs as well as the creation of dosage forms with complicated drug release profiles & prolonged action.
Pharmacists can now examine a patient’s pharmacogenetic detail and other characteristics like age, weight, or gender to determine the optimal dose and sequence of medications.
If necessary, the dose may be adjusted, depending on the clinical response. With 3D printing, it is possible to produce personalized medicines in completely new formulations, such as tablets containing multiple active ingredients, either as a single mixture or as complex multi-layered tablets.
Applications For 3D Printing in Medical Devices
The 3D printing method has developed customized medicine, letting a more precise understanding of the symptoms & treatment of the patient, and producing increased effectiveness in the OR (Operating Room).
The advent of the 3D printing method is marking its territory in specialties like orthopedics, radiology, oncology, and pediatrics, as well as in vascular surgery and cardiothoracic.
Doctors, researchers, and hospitals around the whole world are utilizing 3D printing for the following purposes:
• Medical tools & surgical instruments
• Preoperative planning & customized surgery
• 3D digital dentistry & drug administration
• Silicone 3D molds, customizable implants, and prostheses.
Bioprinting Artificial Organs and Tissue
Bioprinting is one of the many types of 3D printing used in the medical field. Instead of printing with plastic or metal, bioprinters use a syringe dispenser to apply bioink (layers of living cells or a structuring base for them) to create artificial living tissue.
In addition to being used as an alternative to donor tissues, such tissue constructs or organoids can be used for medical research.
Even though 3D bioprinting techniques can be laser or electron beam, inkjet, or extrusion, inkjet bioprinting is the most common.
Numerous printheads can be utilized to accommodate different types of cells (blood vessel cells, organ-specific, muscle tissue), which is a major challenge in the fabrication of organs and heterocellular tissues.
3D printing with biological materials can be used to regenerate tissues, and in the future, organs, directly on the patient.
For surgical interventions to be carried out with minimal trauma for patients, surgeons try to use personalized instruments that, according to anatomical features, are suitable for a particular person.
3D printing makes it possible to produce customized instruments and templates for surgery in just a few hours.
Thanks to additive technologies, surgeons can independently refine finished instruments, giving them the desired shape and size for more productive, convenient, and safe work.
Dentists have the opportunity to create, for example, personal guiding instruments in front of the patient to protect healthy teeth from damage when installing prostheses.
Personalized 3D printed implants show a flexible solution for hard orthopedic cases as well as may produce more treatment possibilities in the future.
Create Custom 3D-Printed Tools for Medical Industries
Medical devices are planned to be as flexible as possible, however, often it is useful to have something a bit more custom-made.
Especially ordering the medical equipment you require can be costly and take longer to come.
With 3D printing technology, you can make custom medical equipment within a few hours, not even weeks – and also you can generate specialized medical equipment for any task.
Medical professionals generated customized surgery equipment depending on the patient’s CT scans – equipment that has been ideally accepted for each procedure and patient.
By understanding that the equipment will fit the new situation, physicians can be more efficient and prepared for their job.
Studies have presented that having 3D printers can reduce the time of operation in the medical field and also increase the accuracy of surgery, particularly in the maxillofacial and oral fields.
Designing Medical Devices
To serve their ideal, medical devices should meet several conditions:
• They should match the special shapes of our bodies.
• They have to be made up of the ideal balance both in weight and size.
• They need to be operational, and they need to pass specified endurance tests.
Making medical devices to meet these measures traditionally needed expansive time. The replacement found by manufacturers of the medical device was stereolithography – a procedure in which a moving beam of laser controlled by a computer builds the needed structure gradually forming layers.
Therefore, 3D printing technology has been utilized to produce the design of an inhaler, even the needed jigs, and fixtures, aiming to:
• Reduce cost by 90% (from $300 to $15).
• Reduce presentation from 1 to 2 weeks to 1 to 2 days.
Preoperative Planning & Customized Surgery
3D printing lets specialists produce reference models utilizing CT scans and MRI to help several surgeons prepare for surgeries.
A kid in Northern Ireland In 2016, had 2 unhealed bones defaults in his forearm. The kid couldn’t rotate his arm completely and was severely suffering from serious pain. X-rays and CT scanning showed shapeless bones, and also the treatment needed an osteotomy – a 4-hour invasive surgery.
Where the surgeon reshaped the bones and improved the rotation of his arm. Nevertheless, the surgeons, 3D printed a model that transformed the surgical intervention, the diagnosis, and the healing of the kid:
• The process was finished in not more than 30 minutes, rather than 4 hours.
• It was the structures between his bones that restricted the kid’s rotation ability and not the none’s shape.
• The post-operation pain, the recovery time, and also the scarring were considerably reduced.
• The kid was capable of gaining 90% movement of arm range 4 weeks after the new intervention.
Such procedure is altering preoperative planning which completely translates into less period spent in the Operation Room, better surgery results for the patient, quicker post-op recovery as well as lower expenses for hospitals.
Prostheses Customized for Patients
Prostheses made utilizing traditional manufacturing processes are costly and not adapted necessarily to a patient’s morphology. In case a patient needs a customized prosthesis, the prices can skyrocket, as well as it’d take some time to be satisfied.
By definition, prostheses have to be customized for the patients. Beyond everything, no 2 people are precisely similar or have the same injuries.
Medical practitioners can use 3D-printed modeling software to assist in creating detailed, 3D images of prostheses that they can unite with each other – as well as perhaps more significantly, with the patients – to make sure a perfect fit.
Then, utilizing 3D printing technology, they can produce custom-made prostheses that are ideally suitable to fit the patients’ precise requirements in a cost-effective, timely manner.
Improving Surgical Instruments
Modern surgeons try to perform operations with as little trauma for the patient as possible, so they very often require a personalized instrument. The use of 3D printing makes it possible to create such tools within hours.
Now the doctor can independently modify the finished model, giving it the necessary size and shape for convenience and efficiency. Dentists can now create, for example, individual guides right in front of the patient, eliminating the possibility of damage to healthy teeth during prosthetics.
Bone & Joint Reconstructions
Similar to prostheses, you can even utilize medical 3D printing technology to assist with bone & joint reconstructions. Rather than utilizing a 1-size-fits-all implant (it sometimes does not “fit all”), one can use 3D printing or additive manufacturing to make custom-made implants.
Besides bone reconstruction, doctors are even starting 3D printing synthetic cartilage to rebuild joints as well as other human body parts. Here’re only a few of the main applications for which you can use 3D printing:
• Facial reconstruction
• Hip replacements
• Jaw reconstruction
• Breast reconstruction
• Knee replacements
This isn’t exhaustive at all. The new possibilities for Medicinal applications for 3D printing are new and endless, and new solutions are being evolved always.
3D Digital Dentistry & Prosthetics
3D printing has been successfully used in medicine for the manufacture of complex custom-made prostheses or surgical implants.
Implants and prostheses of any possible geometry can be made by converting X-ray, MRI, or CT images into 3D-printable models using special software.
The rapid production of custom implants & prostheses unravels a pressing issue in orthopedics. Here typical implants often don’t fit the patient. This is even accurate in neurosurgery field: skulls are individually shaped, so it’s difficult to normalize a cranial implantation.
Previously, surgeons had to use various tools to modify and fit implants, sometimes right during the operation. The use of 3D printers makes this procedure unnecessary. Additive technologies are especially in demand when it is necessary to urgently manufacture implants.
A real revolution in dentistry occurred with the advent of 3D technologies.
First, complete and accurate 3D scanning of the oral cavity became possible. Secondly, the use of 3D printing has made it possible to create prostheses that fit the anatomy of the patient, without the need for a long and unpleasant fit.
The radical reduction in the share of manual labor in the manufacture of prostheses or veneers has reduced the required tolerances in production, expanded the list of materials used, and increased patient satisfaction with the results of the doctor’s work.
Preparing For Operations & Training Students for Complicated Procedures
Accounting for individual differences and features of the anatomy of a particular human body makes it possible to use printed 3D models for the preparation of surgical operations.
Having a doctor have a real model of a particular patient’s organ, made, for example, based on the results of CT (computed tomography) for study or to simulate an operation, significantly reduces the risk of medical errors.
The usage of 3D models for training surgeons and students is preferable to an apprenticeship on cadavers since it does not create problems in terms of the availability as well as cost of objects.
Cadavers often lack proper pathology, so they’re more suitable for anatomy lessons than for presenting a patient with a disorder appropriate to the topic under study. Using 3D printing, you can create a model of any organ with any known pathology.
3D-printed designs of neuroanatomical can be especially useful for neurosurgeons, providing insight into the most complex structures in our body that is fundamentally impossible to obtain based on 2D images.
Because of decreased expenses of 3D printers as well as increased accessibility of CAM/CAD medical software, more and more hospitals are constructing internal 3D-printed anatomical models. The procedure entails many steps such as:
• CT scans and MRIs are prepared in a stage named segmentation for human tissue like hearts, airways, and bones.
• Every organ, as well as body type, is properly modeled by the medical team.
• Then models are transferred into STL files, layout for printing as well as sent to the printer.
3D-printed anatomical models allow surgeons to efficiently schedule the operation and then establish more suitable treatment solutions, reduce the operation’s time, and also improve research as well as training for students of medicine.
Thus, even medical device manufacturers are considering investing in 3D printing for producing medical devices.
The simplest and already ubiquitous use of 3D printing is the creation of prostheses.
A 3D printer based on volumetric scanning and 3D modeling allows you to create anatomically accurate individual prostheses, both for external use and those that are to be implanted. For example, a knee prosthesis or even bones.
For this, high-quality biocompatible materials are used, both of polymeric origin and traditional metals (titanium). Photos of printed prostheses can be found on the net and in large numbers because this is an achievement.
To create prostheses, various 3D technologies are used – photopolymer printing, conventional additive manufacturing (FDM), as well as laser sintering, and fusion methods. But this is not all, and the use of 3D printers in the medical industry is not limited to this.
The usage of 3D printing isn’t restricted to medical devices. Also, other industries, as well as government units, are inquisitive about its usage.
For example, the United States Department of Energy (in short DOE) is supporting resources to analyze 3D printing, as well as how it can be utilized to decrease waste by utilizing fewer raw materials as well as need fewer manufacturing efforts.
DOE has collected info on how the 3D printing technology works, the distinct types of 3D printers as well as what they’re used.
The Future of 3D Printing In the Medical Field
3D printing technology is all set to have an introductory role in the future of the medical field. Nowadays, the method is enabling medical teams both outside (anatomical models) and inside (surgical tools) the OR.
Similarly, it makes dental products faster and cheaper and allows personalized care via custom-produced implants and instruments.
In 2019, top labs and hospitals are embracing 3D printing technology as part of their research efforts and medical practices. This performs as yet another proof of the technology’s worth for medical applications.
Sustaining the technology’s development within the medical field is the collective effort to make a cohesive, single set of standards as well as test techniques for 3D-printed products for the medical industry.
Overcoming present regulatory as well as legal problems will surely help to direct the method going forward in the future.
The possibility of 3D printing technology is growing in other medical sectors. Among them are regenerative medicine and bioprinting, pharmaceuticals, and ophthalmology. Here, 3D printing technology is still in its initial stages, but its possibility is noteworthy.
All things considered, the future of the medical field will look quite different from the medical industry of today — moreover, 3D printing technology will be among the key methods to drive forward this meaningful and exciting transformation.
FAQ 3D Printed Medical
Following are some of the common questions on 3D Printing on Medicine
How Much Does Medical 3d Printing Cost?
3D printing technology can improve existing surgical techniques and can help with organ transplantation. The overall 3D printer can cost you anywhere between $5,000-$50,000, based on how complicated the device is.
What Is The Use Of 3D Printing In Dentistry?
Medicine is a wide area and therefore the use of 3D printers in it is also not narrow. Only in dentistry, 3D printers are used for:
• creation of surgical dental templates;
• printing caps and aligners;
• printing of high-quality crowns and dentures, orthoses;
• making exact copies of the patient’s jaws, etc.
The field of application of 3D printing technology in medicine is full of achievements and is constantly expanding, resembling a real revolution in the field of healthcare.
Additive manufacturing methods increase the productivity and cost-effectiveness of physicians, open up a host of new opportunities and reduce waiting times.
They allow the production of individual medical products, new treatments, and new drugs and improve the quality of patient care while making medical care more accessible at a significantly lower cost.
Urgent 3D printing production of particularly personal protective equipment or patient-matched devices was saving lives for clinic personnel. In reality, 3D printing turned into a vital method, supporting frontliners and hospitals.