Like everything, the medical care field has evolved, benefitting from maturing expertise, supplemental services, and advanced technologies. 3D-printing, which has been around since the 1980s, has been hammered and honed, and it’s inching its way toward perfection in order to better meet the needs of the medical industry and beyond.
Yes, 3D-printing seems like something imagined in a flashy 1960’s sci-fi spectacular, but 3D-printers have the capacity to save lives, which is no meager feat. These printers have fast-tracked the production of prototypes and lengthened lives through the production of airway splints and other useful functional tools. The dental and non-dental medical uses for 3D-printed technology proves 3D printing for medical applications can solve real problems. It’s the physical solution to responding to patient-specific needs, and this enables the development of personalized medicine that can be manufactured simply and shared widely, which means that cost becomes the secondary concern, and care remains at the forefront.
3D-printed applications are revolutionizing surgical practice. For example, the creation of a custom cardiac model helped surgeons to detect and patch a defect in the ventricles of a 2-year-old’s heart, which reduced operating time, produced better outcomes, and lowered the risk of complications. Professional 3D printers are also instrumental when studying CT scans, for skeletal operations, medical imaging, and 3D-modeling.
In the year 2014, the 3D industry grew by 35.2 percent ahead of a slight slowdown during the year to follow. Nonetheless, 3D printing continues to be cost-effective and accessible, which can, through various processes, be used to synthesize three-dimensional objects –thus revolutionizing healthcare. Within a decade, 3D-printed surgical guides and medical models will become standard procedure for spinal procedures, heart surgery, hip replacement, cranial implants, knee replacements and a variety of other operations. In years to come, engineers will become more experimental, testing the potential of life-changing consequences and healthcare solutions. Already, 3D-printable braces, prosthetics, devices, instruments, skin and organs helpful for face transplants, saving the lives of babies and assisting in cell reconstruction. Additionally, there are 3D-printed casts, 3D-printed ankle replacements, and 3D-printed pills.
The potential for 3D-printing is enormous, and it has the ability to bring treatment to millions of people requiring difficult surgery or prosthetics. Rather than paying $10,000 to $20,000 for a traditional transradial (below the elbow) prosthetic, 3D-printing can make customizable and functional prosthetics available for less than a few hundred dollars.
The possibilities truly are limitless.