3D printing is becoming one of the main tools in the medical field, an innovation without borders which comes with numerous advantages for patients, surgeons, students, dentists, etc. The latest 3D printing models in medicine are made of plastic, resin or metal. One thing is certain: 3D printing in medicine brings important improvements in the daily work of all professionals, allowing them to save lives every day.
From creating medical instruments and equipment to customized prostheses, 3D printing has a major impact on the medical industry.
Prostheses obtained by 3D printing
Customization can be used to create tools, and 3D printing makes it possible to create perfectly adapted devices, such as 3D printed parts and even more: 3D printed prostheses and implants, for each patient. Additive manufacturing is now a handy way to create arms, hands and feet, which helps people with disabilities have a normal life.
As we assume, a traditional prosthesis is more expensive and is not necessarily customized for each patient. A 3D printed prosthesis has a lower cost and can be completely adapted to patients’ morphology, their specific habits and disabilities, thanks to 3D scanning and 3D modeling.
Some researchers have already managed to create an artificial cornea using a 3D printer. Eye printing is not far either. It will happen soon.
3D printing helps body reshaping
Additive production saves lives and can help bone reconstruction. This technology helps to create personalized objects which can be adapted to each patient, outside and inside their body. For example, additive manufacturing offers new possibilities for jaw reconstruction.
Recently, in the Netherlands, a reconstruction of the jaw was printed for an 83-year-old woman, using a 3D printer. The materials used were titanium powder and a bioceramic layer. In order to implant new teeth, dentists have created a special dental bridge for the jaw, and this new procedure was preferred to the classic one because it is less risky, given the patient’s advanced age.
Then, also in medicine, 3D printed knees quickly become a solution for many patients. 3D printed synthetic cartilage for knee replacement and the use of 3D printers for knee realignment have already been tested.
Regarding the manufacture of cartilage, scientists at the University of North Carolina, USA, have made a material that fits very well with human cartilage: a certain resistance, better elasticity and optimal shock absorption. This was possible by mixing two types of hydrogels and clays, which could be printed on a 3D printer.
The new implants made with 3D printers will fully respect the morphology and the needs of the patient.
Using 3D printing for breast reconstruction
Huge improvements have been made in the field of breast reconstruction with the help of 3D printers, too. A US company has thus developed an innovative method that can benefit women who need breast implants. Instead of silicone implants, Mattisse, together with 3 doctors from Lille, used a new breast reconstruction technique: fat transfer technique or lipofilling.
To avoid the absorption of fat in the body, the technicians created a 3D printed shell with a lacy shape. This prosthesis is completely bio-resorbable, which means that it can be absorbed by the body like stitches. The reconstruction is natural, the prosthesis can be customized, and the patient no longer needs surgery.
These are just a few important usages of 3D printing in medicine, because what 3D printing offers for medicine is a huge opportunity.