In the last few years, 3D printing technology has taken the world by storm, revolutionizing practices in every field from teaching to astrophysics. The medical world has seen many benefits as 3D printing becomes less expensive and more accessible. Everything from personalized organs and implants to medical devices can be 3D printed. But how does that change the game?
Saving time and money are essential goals in any field, and the medical field is no exception. 3D-printed materials, in the future, will not only provide patients with cost-effective organs, implants, and medical devices, but it will also provide doctors with new ways to test and train medical students in developing practices and research.
- A typical kidney transplant can cost more than $300,000. 3D printing has the potential to reduce that number to less than $100,000.
- The 3D printing industry has grown by more than 35% since 2014.
Organs & Implants
While there is certainly still progress to be made, researchers are coming closer every day to a new reality in which replacement organs for those in need of donations can be 3D-printed. Due to a global shortage, many people can be on waiting lists for years. Since the idea was originally introduced, scientists have worked to develop functional designs for 3D-printed hearts, kidneys, lungs, and more.
- Almost 114,000 people in the U.S. are on the waiting list for a life-saving organ donation.
- The idea to print new organs was first introduced in 2003 by Thomas Boland of Clemson University.
Prosthetics & Medical Devices
The flexibility of 3D printing allows manufacturers to easily modify designs to specifically match a patient’s anatomy. In the case of prosthetics, 3D printing produces perfectly fitted devices quickly, while remaining both functional and cost-effective. The 3D printing process can also be helpful in producing medical devices and drugs.
- There are nearly 2 million people in the United States with amputations.
- The first use of a 3D-printed prosthetics was in 2012.
Using 3D printing to produce surgical instruments is an accurate and cost-effective way to quickly manufacture highly-demanded medical supplies. It is easy to modify designs for particular surgical needs, even for complex instruments.
- The average price of a set of surgical instruments is more than $3,000.
- A multihospital organization can have more than 25,000 pieces of equipment.
Printing the Future
The future of medicine certainly contains 3D printers. Whether medical professionals are using them to help students practice and research new treatments and procedures, or patients are receiving new organs and prosthetics, 3D printing has hundreds of possible applications.