Medical 3D printing is used to produce plastic molds that are lightweight and custom-made to fit the patient perfectly. Orthoses can be customized using 3D scan data for better fit and support. Like prostheses, 3D printed orthoses can behave more dynamically than traditional designs. For example, the design can have areas of stiffness and areas of flexibility, as well as perforation patterns that improve breathability and hygiene.
The use of medical 3D printing is expected to continue to grow in the coming years as the technology becomes more accessible and affordable. Prosthesis and orthopedic appliances are ideal for 3D printing because they are often made of plastic and must be tailor-made to fit each patient. Rather than bone reconstruction, 3D printing in the medical field is starting to show a great improvement compared to 3D printing of organs. However, as healthcare professionals and patients realize the comfort, convenience and suitability of 3D printed body parts, and the cost of 3D printers and 3D printing material dwindles as volumes increase, it can be safely predicted that 3D printing is the way forward in healthcare.
It is possible to replicate a 3D organ using 3D volumetric image data from the patient's computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or echocardiography, and surgeons can practice with this organ. Bioprinting, another nascent field in health care, promises to take 3D printing one step closer to natural parts of the body. A 3D printed prosthesis has a lower cost and can be fully adapted to the morphology of patients, their habits and their disability thanks to 3D scanning and 3D modeling. Innovations in raw materials for 3D printing now allow manufacturers to manufacture more natural and flexible joints.
Today, there are many different technologies for 3D printing, including stereolithography (SLA), digital light processing (DLP), fused deposition modeling (FDM), selective laser fusion (SLM) and selective laser sintering (SLS) and others. The use cases of medical devices for 3D printing include osseointegration, mechanical biocompatibility and 3D printed foams, each of which can offer performance benefits. Several 3D printer manufacturers, such as Stratasys, the market leader, offer specialized 3D printers (such as the J720 and J700), as well as raw materials, as part of their dental 3D printing solutions. For now, bioprinting is mainly used in medical and biological laboratories to create biological tissue samples that are used in drug tests and experiments.
From 3D printed sponges to cure cancer to adaptive aids to help patients with arthritis, additive manufacturing is becoming a real revolution in the medical sector. While 3D printing presents significant opportunities for clinical innovation, many institutions face reimbursement and security issues related to the integration of rapidly evolving technology in a highly regulated field.