3D Printers in Medicine

Many people think that 3D printing will be the next big thing in manufacturing. However, Colin Raney (head of global marketing at 3D printing company Formlabs) thinks otherwise. 3D printing isn’t a practical replacement for manufacturing:

“The hype cycle for 3-D printing is that it will replace manufacturing, that you can print anything in the home, but in my opinion that’s actually not the best use of the technology,” Rainey says. “People will say you can print a coat hanger if you need one, but you could probably get them from Amazon faster and cheaper than you could 3-D print them.”

Despite what many might think will come from 3D printing, traditional manufacturing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But 3D printers can still make an impact in a different way. It’s becoming more common to see 3D printers in the medical field.

If you told someone five years ago that scientists are printing human organs in labs they might look at you a little funny. Today, you might still get funny looks but at least now it has a name: bioprinting. Bioprinting is the 3D printing of organs and body parts using biomaterial. This technology is exciting on many levels including the possibility of eliminating the need for organ donors. California based bioprinting company Organovo recently announced that they printed liver tissue that is both accurate and functional.

Bioprinting isn’t the only use of 3D printers in medicine. Researchers at Louisiana Tech University have developed 3D printed medical implants that contain antibiotic and drug delivery properties. The researchers fabricate “beads” that are made of medical quality filaments which can hold and administer medications. The drug release is controlled by the rate at which the implants naturally break down in the body over time.

3D printing is also being used for facial implants, prosthetics, synthetic bones implants, and many other applications in the medical field. The hot topic is 3D printing in manufacturing, but 3D printing in medicine may have a bigger impact.