3D Printing As A Tool In Providing Cost Effective Personalized Medicine.

Additive manufacturing or also known as 3D printing is unique in the healthcare industry, as compared to other industries like automotive or aerospace. The reason is that of not only improving the quality of care but also by making it cost effective. According to Visiongain forecasts the overall market for 3D printing in the healthcare industry will expand rapidly from 2014 and will potentially reach $4043m in 2018. 

To effectively create a strong synergy among computer-aided design, and 3D printing of medical devices with healthcare applications, it is important to balance the cost of delivery of the medical device and the effectiveness of the successful outcome in saving a life or improving the quality of care. To be successful in the optimum delivery of personalized medicine, patients will need unique devices that can be personalized, rapidly manufactured and easy to use all the time while addressing healthcare disparities in emerging countries. 

One of the most important outcomes from the rapid growth of additive manufacture medical applications is changing the landscape in the supply chain of medical device manufacturing. People in countries with low resource settings have financial obstacles which make it difficult to get the optimum treatment. Now, with 3D printing technology, it is possible to help people to overcome these obstacles. 

Innovation in development of 3D printing is changing the healthcare industry in the prosthetic sector.30 million people require prosthetics according to the World Health Organization in emerging and expanding countries. In the last couple of years, there has been a revolution in healthcare applications of 3D printing, with the rapid growth of low-cost 3D printers, functional prosthetic limbs can be designed and developed by using the most inexpensive consumer-grade printers.  These can be used to create low-cost, high-tech prosthetic limbs with controllable fingers, helping to restore independence to amputees in emerging countries with high incidence war-related injuries. 

The important result of the 3D printing industry is using the technology to take care of people who could not afford the treatment, improving the outcomes and increasing the cost-effectiveness by personalized design and development of prosthetic limbs. The rapid growth of applications in healthcare is very high because 3D printing allows increasing customization of human body parts as there's nothing that requires more personalization as needed in replacement of any human body part.  

The optimum growth for 3D printing technology can be maximized in low resource countries, wherein there is lack of coordinated supply chain distribution of simple medical tools which helps healthcare workers to diagnose and effectively manage common health ailments. In addition, there are still numerous applications that could be harnessed that may positively affect millions of lives in emerging countries like the manufacture of cost-effective basic medical supplies, such as small splints and clamps. But, to reach its full potential there should be further reductions in the cost of 3D printers, then the availability and opportunities of 3D printing in healthcare could increase. The framework for building evidence for effectiveness, appropriateness, and feasibility of 3D printed medical applications that can be established is also yet clear in the present settings. 

Only when there is synergy between the manufacturers of 3D printers, the raw materials used in 3D printing and the healthcare professionals, can 3D printing technology provide a cost-effective personalized medicine tool.

3D printing in Healthcare-Medical Device Design and Development and Future Challenges.

In the current century, with the advent of technological revolution in medicine, our approach to solving healthcare challenge is constantly changing. Today, many medical device ventures constantly bring to market many new gadgets that can be used to better our general well being. Physicians are constantly using these devices to better our general health condition. They are able to diagnose health issues faster and find a better solution to manage them.

Medical Device Manufactures today are constantly using different methods to create quality products, which have a significant impact on the general health of the people. However, these products have a longer time span to come to the market from the point of bench side manufacturing to bedside clinical management of patients. One of the tools, which we can use to expedite the process, is 3D printing technology.

3D printing has revolutionized the manufacturing process, as it uses an Additive process of manufacturing. Unlike the conventional method of manufacturing which uses the subtractive process, which increases the wastage and also the time span to produce a medical device are longer. One of the main challenges of using the custom-built devices for the patient is the cost of production, in the conventional model of manufacturing, these costs can be prohibitive due to scaling issues. But with 3D printing, the costs could be lowered, as the only major cost is the material costs of printing. And the timeline to produce the device is shorter.


However, 3D printing technologies involve the computer-aided design of the product, followed by model development by layer printing process.3D printers are used to manufacture a variety of medical devices, either with complex geometry or features which are specific to an individual patient or a generalized product devices which are printed from a standard design to make multiple copies of the same device.

Commercially available 3D printed devices include

  • Instrumentation guides which assist with proper surgical placement of devices.
  • Implants in the body
  • External prosthesis for the upper limb or lower limb.

Patient-specific devices use the image-guided data from patients anatomy, Patient matching can be done by scaling of the device using one or more anatomic features from patient data.

Despite the many advantages of 3D printing technology, there are several challenges in terms of reality projection, for eg organ printing is still in experimental stage, and the reality of these coming to mainstream in the near future is not guaranteed with the current state of 3D printing technology. Regulatory barriers are also another challenge with 3D printing technology, some of the medical devices have received a 501(K) approval from FDA in the United States, but for more mainstream applications in the medical field, it will be complex and longer time duration to get full approval from different regulatory bodies around the globe.

As 3D printing continues to expand, researchers continue to improve medical applications of exciting medical devices and explore new ones. The medical advances that have been made using 3D printing are already significant and exciting, but some of the more revolutionary applications in 3D printing will need time before it can be a reality.