With 3D printing being introduced to most industries it is no surprise that it has made it has found its way into medicine. What may be surprising is that 28% of medical technology and pharmaceutical companies already use 3D printing according to a recent survey by Ernst & Young.
Not only is 3D printing used in dental care and medicine, it has also been used in surgical procedures. This is able to be accomplished since for bone replacements additive manufacturing is used to create the complex shapes that are required in surgery. Additive manufacturing is the process that creates a 3D object through the build-up of layers of material. The recent developments with hyperelastic bone which is a surgically friendly biomaterial and can be 3D printed into any shape necessary.
3D printing has gone further to create human organ replacements, it recently has also been used to create a soft silicone heart. The ETH university in Zurich managed to create a heart that wouldn’t be rejected by the body (hence the use of silicone) and one that matched the complexity of a real human heart. Although, the heart is not completely identical. Nicholas Chors (a doctoral student at ETH) added an extra chamber where the septum would be which can be filled with air to allow the heart to pump.
People have also been able to created partially printed finger replacements for those who have lost any fingers. The “Knick Finger” is a 3D printed contraption that acts and bends like a normal finger would, allowing those who have lost a finger to regain it. Nick Brrokins designed the finger after he lost his index finger in a motorcycle incident and began working on his project before he had even left the hospital. Using the Knick finger himself, Nick is able to experience the flaws of the finger and amending them to create the best product he can. Thingiverse has the 3D printable Knick Finger available for free.
Disease cells are also being bioprinted. More specifically the printing of cancer cells has been used to help study the development and growth of cancerous tumours. This research can look to improve drug testing, cancer cell analysing and the development of cancer therapy. Eventually, with the help of 3D printing, a cure for cancer could be found in the future.
Overall, 3D printing currently offers a variety of ways to help improve our health care but the printers used need a software that is advanced enough to create specific prints. However once this has been overcome, the possibilities are endless for 3D printing in health.