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  • Writer's pictureM Aerospace RTC

3D Printing in the Medical Industry

3D printing, also called additive manufacturing (English), is a

set of processes that produce objects through the addition of material

in layers corresponding to the successive cross-sections of a

3D model. Plastics and metal alloys are the most

used for 3D printing, but almost anything can be used, from

concrete to living tissue.

A 3D printer is a device capable of reproducing a solid object

three-dimensional by adding material, the design of which is made in

computer. The process consists of adding material layer by layer and from

bottom to top 3D printing, also known as manufacturing

Additively, it creates three-dimensional components from CAD models. mimics

biological processes that add material layer by layer to create a

physical part. 3D printing is a group of manufacturing technologies by

addition capable of creating a three-dimensional object by superimposing

successive layers of a given material. A process by which they are created

physical objects through layering a material from a

digital model.

3D printing came to the rescue by creating 'phantom tumors': replicas in

plastic of real tumors that allow oncologists to work without risk,

testing and deciding on the most appropriate treatment and dosage without causing

side effects on the patient. 3-D printers do not print on a

flat substrate like traditional ink printers, but they do it in layers

successive, forming objects with volume. The first 3-D printers were

developed in the 1980s by an American engineer

named Charles Hull. The "ink" was an acrylic liquid that turned solid when

is exposed to ultraviolet light, usually from a laser beam. From

then its use has skyrocketed and is applied in many areas. Let's review the

Main uses of 3D printers in Medicine.

3D printing was first developed in the 1950s.

of 1980. It consists of taking a digital model of a target for later

produce it in successive layers of a suitable material with the

objective of giving volume to that previously digitized object, in the

recent years this scientific innovation has had a very large boom,

having multiple applications in modern medicine will be mentioned


▪ Surgical preparation

It consists of printing an exact replica of those organs or bones

damaged, which are targeted for surgical operation due to

any disease in them. The fact of having the organ in question before

of intervening in the patient's body, produces that the doctors can

practice on the printed organ and find the most viable alternative to

treat patients. This produces a more effective treatment a surgery

with less duration which translates into a faster recovery for

the patient.

▪ Prosthetics

3D printing of prostheses is a more automated process and is capable

of providing personalized pieces for anyone, functional,

comfortable, light and aesthetic. The most printed prostheses are those of

arms, hands, legs, feet, face, teeth and even limbs to


▪ Pharmacology

People taking precision therapy (specific treatment

based on the genome and differential characteristics of each person) have

a limit when your medication requires higher doses than are found in

the market. This is why 3d printing is an alternative in which you can

design dosage forms that are sent to print according to the

demand. It has produced impressions of various medicines, aesthetic

personalized and flexible doses, which truly creates a personalized treatment.

▪ Tissues and organs

3d printing of tissues and organs refers to the problem of finding

organs in donors to implant them in the body of patients. Can

produce them by this means is ideal to meet the demand for

people who do not find an available donor. Furthermore, the production of

tissues and organs is a functional environment in which scientists can practice their

hypotheses and experiment, without the need for the use of experimental animals.


There are about two dozen 3D printing processes, which use technologies+

different printers, speeds and resolutions, and hundreds of materials. Are

technologies can create a 3D object in almost any shape imaginable such as

as defined in a computer-aided design (CAD) file.

The biggest advantage that 3D printers offer in medical applications is the freedom

to produce custom-made products and medical equipment. 3 For example, the use of

3D printing to manufacture particular prostheses and implants can provide a

Great value for patients and doctors. Another important benefit offered by the

3D printing is the ability to produce items cheaply

Among the latest uses of 3D printing is use in pharmacy. For example,

Developed by Ohio-based pharmaceutical company Appreciate, Spritam

Levetiracetam is a new medicine to control seizures caused by

for epilepsy. But what is really new is that it is the first pill printed in

3D. ZipDose technology uses 3D printing to create a more porous pill.

Its structure makes the pill dissolve more quickly in contact with the

liquid, making it much easier to swallow than a conventional tablet.

The 3D printing process also allows medicines to be packaged in

precise doses, pointing to a future of personalized medicine.

The study reveals that 11% of the income of the medical industry comes from

3D printed parts, whether implants or medical devices. this growing

interest could be explained by the need to personalize medical solutions

today it is for such a reason that 3D printing was a future innovation but now

it is an exciting reality. This technology presents incredible

growth opportunities, whether it's for engineers or doctors."

It is already known that additive manufacturing technologies are changing the ways of

production, although it is still difficult to compete with certain conventional methods, and

the main reason is that the speed is still considered slow. 3D printing of

large series takes time and still does not appear as the preferred method for many

sectors. However, the medical field is very interested in this technology with

the ability to create solutions tailored to each patient. They are almost 7,500 million

of different morphologies to which doctors must adapt. 3d printing

then appears as a new solution to create devices

personalized to meet the needs of patients.

The American firm Allied Market Research calculated that the market for

medical 3D printing will reach $2.3 billion in 2020. This growth could

be explained by the opportunities in terms of personalization offered by the

additive manufacturing. To create prosthetics, implants, to better prepare an operation

surgery or to manufacture medical devices that facilitate certain operations

such as surgical guides or other visual aids. An implant is intended

to replace an organ over a long period of time or to supplement a either

more of its functions. Therefore, by definition, it is fully adapted to the

patient and his anatomy. Personalization is time consuming and expensive

when it comes to using traditional manufacturing methods. This is where the

Medical 3D printing is useful and helps design custom implants. Various

players have also started in this sector and use 3D technologies to manufacture

personalized medical devices an example of this is the French startup,

AnatomikModeling, who designed the first tracheobronchial prosthesis using

3D technologies. Its general manager, Benjamín Moreno, explained: «The use of printing

3D has several advantages: you can go directly from the 3D digital model to the

3D physical anatomical model, maintaining a very good precision. Save time

It is important especially if it is with reduced costs. This allows you to enter

completely in the era of personalization of medical devices. It is also

possible to make 3D anatomical models with very complex geometric shapes that

they would be very difficult to obtain through traditional manufacturing techniques.

Through the use of medical 3D printing, manufacturers of prosthetics and implants

can create solutions with the correct dimensions, with a complex design and at

a lower cost. Regarding the durability of the medical devices created,

even if the number of examples is still low compared to the methods

traditional ones, one can cite the example of 3D titanium cups that are still

as effective after being placed in the patient. This prevents the patient

change the implant every decade, which makes her daily life easier and spares her the awkward


Finally, medical 3D printing has also made it possible to automate the process of

creation of hearing and dental prostheses. According to the manufacturer EnvisionTEC, the number

of steps required to make headphones has increased from 9 to 3 in just a few

few years. He goes on to detail them: the audiologist first scans the patient's ear

patient with a 3D scanner to create an auditory impression. With these 100,000-

150,000 benchmarks, the analysis is sent to a modeler who shapes a

model. When it's done, it's printed from a resin and will be equipped with

the necessary components. The manufacturer estimates that 65 can now be printed

prosthesis per hour

. Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, a figure

alarming that could be reduced thanks to 3D technologies. This also becomes

in a means to rapidly implement surgical models with images of the

patient, which allows surgeons, and trainee doctors in general,

train before surgery and limit errors. These printed anatomical models

in 3D can also be presented to the patient before their operation so that they can

visualize all the steps of the operation, a way to also improve the relationship between doctor and patient.

Thomas Marchand, CEO of the French start-up BIOMODEX explains that 3D printing

“allows them to offer a real alternative to surgical training solutions

that are not satisfactory today (training in patients, anatomical parts of

carcasses or animal that poses ethical and logistical problems). Through a

web platform, the doctor can upload medical images of his patient, from

scans, MRI, or ultrasound. A few days later you will receive an organ from BIOMODEX

synthetic in which you can train, choose the right approach, the strategy of

correct function and prostheses adapted to the patient (size and position).

“Some of the most successful 3D printed patterns could even mimic the

bleeding, getting as close as possible to reality, which would increase the accuracy and

the efficiency of surgical procedures.

The goal is to reduce the number of medical errors by improving the training of

the surgeons. Animals or corpses would no longer be used, which is currently

logistical problems, but especially ethical ones. Dr. Ahmed Ghazi, Professor

assistant in the Department of Urology at the University of Rochester comments:

"Surgeons are like pilots. For everyone, we must go through the step of removing

a 747, alone, for the first time. For a surgeon, performing an operation from A to Z in

perfect autonomy is also mandatory. The pilots are preparing with

flight simulators, but until now surgeons did not have a system of

valid simulation.

Still restricted to research applications, bioprinting is a technology in

rapid development that has been growing significantly in recent years.

This is a method that allows you to create cell structures with a 3D printer

specific, which provides the ability to design living organs. Although they are not

functional long-term, we must highlight all the progress made. The

American company Organovo, for example, is one of the leaders in the sector;

he developed bone tissue and grafted liver tissue using bioprinting. Appearance

Biosystems, for its part, manufactured a bioprinter called RXI, capable of manufacturing

physiologically complex custom human tissue. A breakthrough I would try

different medications in organs specially created for the occasion, but

will also perform synthetic organ transplants.

Among the different applications of medical 3D printing, bioprinting offers the

opportunity to create skin, which helps treat serious injuries and helps patients

in his recovery. Marc Jeschke, a plastic surgeon, explained to us: Once you

can create synthetic skin from a patient's cells, completely changes

the situation because you can operate very quickly. We think about progress

conducted by researchers in South Korea, which combined two methods of

printing, extrusion and inkjet, which allowed them to create leather based on

collagen with a polycaprolactone membrane. Even if the developments still

are in their infancy, bioprinting of the skin could modify the surgical sector,

but also the field of cosmetics, where products could be tested

directly on bioprinted skin.

Another promising part of medical 3D printing is the possibility in a few years

to see the 3D printed medicines. The technology is there but the problem is

more regulatory. The pharmaceutical industry is highly regulated and must

meet many requirements to place it on the market. The FabRx company, without

However, she seems convinced of the opportunities offered by 3D printing in this

market; aims to produce 3D-printed drugs. One of his researchers

Dr. Álvaro Goyanes explained to us that «being able to create tablets or medical devices

simply modifying a 3D file offers many opportunities. the simplest

is to be able to change the size or fill (that is, the percentage of material within the

object) and thus change the mass of the tablet and, therefore, the dose of the drug.

Therefore, it is possible to adjust the dose of each medicine according to the

patient, much easier and faster. A particularly interesting development in

pediatrics according to Álvaro, where the age and weight of the child have a great influence on

the way the medicine is administered. The doctor adds that "it would be possible

combining two or more drugs into one tablet, reducing the number of tablets

that a person has to take, which is especially important in


With respect to the printing technology used, FabRx uses a process similar to that of

selective sintering, and it is the powder that would contain the medicine. Alvaro states:

“Depending on the materials we select, we can achieve a release

very rapid or a targeted release of the drug in specific regions of the tract


FabRx wants to equip some hospitals with 3D printers in 2 years. One of the

main challenges will be regulation; drugmaker says still

you do not know the steps of the validation process. If the 3D printing of the drug is

considered a manufacturing step, it will be subject to much control and regulation

highest; if a composition step is considered, the regulation will be less strict.

The truth is that the field of medical 3D printing reserves a bright future.

bright for

the emergence of additive manufacturing. In the next 10 years, the field of medicine

will have evolved thanks to the rapid development of technology and perhaps we will see the

first bioprinted functional organs, an innovation worthy of the best

science fiction movies.

When medical teams, for example from Doctors Without Borders, have to reach

areas far from civilization, one of the problems they face is the

transportation of their instruments and equipment, and adapt their procedures to be able to

perform them despite the limitations.

In addition, they must teach the local population to treat recurrent injuries, and

provide them with the tools to do so.

In all these cases, the problem is determined because any surgery requires

of a large number of different tools to function.

3D printers are an interesting resource, since they would allow avoiding the need for

stocks: whether a specific tool is needed or several need to be manufactured

copies of one piece, can be printed on the same day.

It is not an easy job, but it is not impossible either. And, in fact, it is what a

foundation, called precisely "Not Impossible" wants to achieve with actions such as

the daniel project

Daniel is a Sudanese boy who lost his arms in a bombing in the mountains


The foundation's co-founder, Micky Eveling, traveled to his village to meet him and

print an arm for him, as well as to teach the local population how to make it.

Thus, the democratization of personal 3D printers has made it possible to help

cheap and effective to an isolated population that still does not have the resources to access the

latest advances in medicine

One of the main difficulties in treating cancer is knowing how the body is going to

react to treatment, or if the cancer will grow in another organ.

For this reason, the possibility of testing the treatment on cells extracted from the tumor itself may

help avoid the repetitive (and exhausting for the patient) phases of trying a treatment,

while increasing the effectiveness and speed of healing.

Wake Forest University's Institute for Regenerative Medicine is taking a step

decisive in this procedure that they have called «metastasis in a splinter«, alluding to the use of

organoids from the patient himself. These organoids are in fact organs created with

3D printing, with cells extracted from the patient himself, in the case of the study of the intestine and the

liver, using biogels.

The goal is to create laboratory models of cancer spreading from one tissue to another, and to test

drugs in those organoids.

One of the advantages of this innovative system is that it can overcome shortcomings of the methods

traditional. As the university itself states, traditional studies using plaques, or

results obtained on animals are not applicable to human patients, being necessary

incorporate other new advances in medicine

There are many technologies that help improve the health of humanity, but 6 of

they stand out for their great and potential impacts. They are the Intelligence

Artificial, Virtual Health Care, Nanomedicine, Virtual Reality, Surgery

assisted by Robots and Medical 3D Printing.

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