Additive Manufacturing In the Medical Industry

3D Printing is revolutionizing the medical industry through every aspect of the available technology. Specifically, Miller 3D partner, 3D Systems is making significant headway with their applications in prosthetics, implants, and more! By offering biocompatible material, and material that can be sanitized with an autoclave, they are an industry leader for these medical industry applications.

For example, a surgeon created a surgical implant with FDA cleared VSP Orthopaedics, which is a personalized solution for unique cases. The patient’s case presented an interesting challenge because the implant had to combat a deformity from previous hardware in the ankle.

3D printed prosthetic arm

Medical Industry 3D Printing Examples

  1. Patient-Specific Surgical Models: 3D printed anatomical models from patient scan data are becoming increasingly useful for personalized, precise applications. Medical industry cases are becoming more complex, and operating room scheduling efficiency is becoming more important. As a result, routine cases can benefit from visual and tactile reference models to enhance understanding and communication within operating room teams, and with patients. Healthcare professionals, hospitals, and research organizations across the globe are using 3D printed anatomical models for preoperative planning, intraoperative visualization, and sizing or pre-fitting medical equipment for all types of surgical procedures.
  2. New Medical Devices and Instruments: Many medical tool manufacturers have adopted 3D printing technology to produce brand new medical devices and surgical instruments due to the low cost, ease of use, and medical grade material offerings.
  3. Affordable Prostheses: Each year hundreds of thousands of people lose a limb, but only a fraction of them have access to a prosthesis. In addition, simple prostheses are only available in a few sizes, and they are traditionally impossible to personalize. The alternatives are custom-fit bionic devices designed to mimic the motions and grips of real limbs. However, these are traditionally so expensive that they’re only accessible to patients with the best health insurance in developed countries. This particularly affects prostheses for children. Additive manufacturing is a great solution as prosthetists can take advantage of the design freedom to mitigate these high financial barriers to treatment. These applications are driving prosthetic production to make it possible for patients to get a custom-designed prosthesis that is well-adapted for them for a much more affordable price.
Two fingers holding a bioprinted slide

4.  Corrective Insoles and Orthoses: Custom orthoses are often inaccessible due to their high cost, and long production time. With 3D printing, that no longer needs to be the case. By utilizing the personalization, quick production features, and decreased price tags, physical therapists are now able to introduce a new workflow for accessible ankle foot orthoses (AFOs).
5. Bioprinting, Tissue Engineering, 3D Printed Organs and Beyond: Researchers in the fields of bioprinting and tissue engineering are working towards creating tissues, blood vessels, and organs on demand through additive manufacturing technology. 3D bioprinting refers to the use of additive manufacturing processes to deposit materials known as bioinks to create tissue-like structures that can be used in medical fields. Tissue engineering refers to the various evolving technologies, including bioprinting, to grow replacement tissues and organs in the laboratory for use in treating injury and disease. This will be done by directing cellular growth so that the required tissue is formed. Doctors and engineers are working to grow living cells on a scaffold in the lab that provides a template of the required shape, size, and geometry for the 3D print. For example, a tubular structure is needed to create a blood vessel for a cardiovascular patient. The cells will multiply and cover the scaffold, taking on its shape. The scaffold then gradually breaks down, leaving the living cells arranged into the shape of the target tissue, that is cultured in a bioreactor, a chamber that contains the developing tissue and can reproduce the internal environment of the body, to acquire mechanical and biological performance of organic tissue.