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
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
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
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
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.
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.