Technology has demonstrated its success in improving surgical techniques through the development of organ models, bone and joint implants, and precision instruments. Research is also underway to use the technology in the manufacture of drugs, skin tissues and organs. Advances in medical 3D printing technology have made enormous contributions to the fields of healthcare. For patients, new therapeutic tools and methods developed through 3D printing can bring new degrees of comfort and personalization to treatment.
For doctors, this newly accessible technology allows for a better understanding of complex cases and provides new tools that can ultimately result in a higher level of care. Producing patient-specific tactile reference models from computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging is affordable and simple with 3D printing. Dentures manufactured with 3D printing can be delivered in as little as two weeks and can then be tested and maintained at a much lower cost than their traditional counterparts. The 3D printing technique accelerates the process, since custom molds for transparent aligners can be manufactured directly from digital patient scans.
The table below highlights the 3D printing technologies that are best equipped to manage the different medical 3D printing applications. The wide versatility of SLA is priced slightly higher than that of FDM, but it is still more affordable than all other 3D printing processes. Todd Goldstein, doctor and instructor at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, is unequivocal in his assessment of the importance that 3D printing technology has acquired for his department. At the same time, 3D printing is expected to have an impact on other medical specialties, such as ophthalmology, regenerative medicine and bioprinting.
Elsewhere, MIT researchers have also identified 3D printing as an optimal means of producing more comfortable prosthetic cavities. Accurate and affordable medical 3D printing processes are democratizing access to technology, allowing health professionals to develop new clinical solutions and rapidly manufacture personalized devices, and allowing doctors to offer new treatments around the world. Alternatively, SLA 3D printing is ideal for casting workflows that produce metal parts at a lower cost, with greater design freedom and in less time than traditional methods. The biggest advantage of these processes is obviously the materials, since DMLS and SLM 3D printers are capable of producing high-performance end-use medical devices and components from metal.
As the price of high-performance 3D printers decreases, more and more medical professionals are using 3D printing to produce customized and cost-effective devices in short periods of time, design anatomical models customized for patients, identify revolutionary clinical solutions and create new treatments adapted to patient needs. As costs continue to fall and material properties improve, 3D printing will undoubtedly play an increasingly important role in this health department. FDM technology is the most used form of 3D printing among consumers, driven by the advent of 3D printers for amateurs. 3D printing in the field and design of medicine must go beyond the ordinary to change healthcare.