3D Printers And Applications in Health care in Resource Poor Countries: Bridging The Digital Divide

As Danish physicist Niels Bohr stated, “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” 3D printing has created a new revolution and there is a widespread belief that it is the next industrial revolution. This shift is considerable in many industries ranging from aerospace to automotive, but in the world of healthcare, the paradigm shift is not yet significant. It is quite early to predict the benefits of additive manufacturing in development of healthcare applications with benefit to resource-poor countries.

Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry, noted that characteristics of the evolving health system—such as an eroding safety net—can interact with personal characteristics to contribute to increased vulnerability.”

 

Ventures in developing countries do not necessarily have the incentive to adopt new technologies to increase their cost-effectiveness because they are often protected from domestic or foreign competition. Although, it has created a new system of manufacturing wherein there is the integration of design and rapid prototyping and development of objects. Yet some of the real-time application benefits are farfetched. The reason is that healthcare delivery is prohibitive in developed countries but more so in resource-poor countries. The supply chain in the healthcare industry is deeply entrenched in the current process of manufacturing which is not very cost effective. But, additive technologies ventures enable the novice to professionals to quickly transform their ideas into products at the rapid pace with lower cost.

Wright published an article in the Journal of Aeronautical Science, he proposed that the number of labor hours required for building an airplane declined predictably as a function of the cumulative number of units produced because of the increases in skill and efficiency that came from experience and practice. This has been followed extensively in the world of manufacturing in the last couple of decades. The same concept could also be applied to the world of additive manufacturing today.

Not only can additive manufacturing in medicine help to build custom tools and equipment for patients like medical devices, but also that require prostheses, it can make the actual prosthetic device much more comfortable and cost-effective. This can offer significant benefits in communities around the world which are resource poor in terms of affordability. The key step is to create a supportive ecosystem for additive manufacturing by bringing together academic institutions, the non-profit organization, healthcare industries and entrepreneurs developing new innovative technologies.

The emerging Countries should develop their own additive manufacturing facilities, while also keeping in mind that these may time longer time to bear the desired fruit. Harnessing opportunities thus require policies that lower the barriers to competition and market entry, in addition to investments in infrastructure and skills. Only then will firms use new digital technologies more intensively and effectively—and only then will countries avoid falling behind and avoid the digital divide.

Source:

  1. Berman, B. (2012). 3-D printing: The new industrial revolution. Business horizons, 55(2), 155- 162.
  2. Chang, Betty L. et al. “Bridging the Digital Divide: Reaching Vulnerable Populations.” Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association: JAMIA 11.6 (2004): 448–457. PMC. Web. 2 Dec. 2017.
  3. World Bank. 2016. World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends. Washington, DC: World Bank. doi:10.1596/978-1-4648-0671-1. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0 IGO

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