Just a decade ago, patients in need of a hip replacement were fitted with metal alloy implants which would need to be replaced in 10 to 15 years. In the last several years, however, it’s become common for patients’ hip replacements to be made out of a biomaterial called Trabecular Titanium– and these implants are made using 3D printing.
Projected to be worth $3.5bn by 2025, 3D printing for the healthcare industry is growing and revolutionizing medical solutions and research as it does.
The Main Uses of 3D Printing In Healthcare
Besides being used to create hip replacement implants, 3D printing is used for a number of medical purposes. Some of the main uses include:
Implants and Prosthetics
Implants for knee replacements, some bone repair, and potentially even organ transplants are possible through 3D printing. Prosthetics can be made using 3D printing as well.
Medical innovators are working on 3D printed pills which would allow medications to be tailored to patients’ individual needs. The pill releases each drug into the body at specific intervals, which reduces the need for patients to take multiple pills.
There is a possibility of 3D printing being used in biomedical engineering for skin grafts and other purposes.
Being able to replicate organs, bones, and more through 3D printing makes a way for researchers to better simulate, test, and improve theories and treatments. It can also allow doctors like surgeons to see, feel, and manipulate precise renderings of internal body parts before performing risky or delicate surgeries.
Benefits of 3D Printed Medical Technology
3D printing is not a fanciful or futuristic type of medical technology. Its benefits are very real for the medical field, healthcare providers, and patients. The advantages of being able to create tools, implants, prosthetics, and more at a lower cost is one reason 3D printing is booming in healthcare.
Another major benefit of 3D printing in medicine is the ability to personalize products. A hip replacement implant, for example, can be made specifically for each patient who needs one, based on their scans and unique body composition. Prosthetics can be tailored to be more functional for the individuals who use them. Further, this kind of customization using 3D printing technology can be done more efficiently and precisely than before.
Other benefits of 3D printing in the healthcare industry include longer-durability of many of the products, like implants. Multi-faceted research opportunities, cost-savings, and the ability of 3D printers to integrate with existing medical tech, like x-rays or CT scans, are also advantageous.
Challenges Facing the Industry
3D printing for medical purposes is not without challenges. Among those challenges, one of the top obstacles to be overcome is the implementation of regulations. The FDA, for instance, is currently trying to understand 3D printing in healthcare well enough to ensure innovations are safe.
Another challenge is training personnel in both the medical field and the technology field to serve patients well. New types of jobs are being created as a result of this new type of medical technology. More new types of jobs are likely to be created as the potential of 3D printing is realized. Current healthcare workers and 3D printer technologists and innovators must work together to forge the future of smarter, more advanced healthcare.
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