As 3D printing technology transforms the medical sector, millions of patients around the globe are looking forward to its robust offerings.
FREMONT, CA: 3D technology has made significant progress in the medical sector, enabling healthcare providers to find solutions for many of the problems afflicting the patients. Medical organizations all across the world are turning toward 3D technology to address various clinical challenges, including donor shortages, secondary injuries, and several other complications involved in conventional organ transplant procedures.
The technology is slowly revolutionizing various segments of medicine, empowering the development of the much-needed medical products, including 3D printed skin for burn victims, facial reconstruction for cancer patients, airway splints for infants, and so on. Major manufacturing firms have leveraged the technology to produce millions of hearing aid products, ear molds, dental crowns, dental bridges, and so on.
The traditional and convention procedures are making way for the more efficient and durable offerings of the new technology. It has made considerable leeway in the field of prosthetics. Unlike the elaborate and sophisticated conventional prosthetics, 3D printed products offer greater flexibility and versatility. Also, the 3D printed prosthetics are considerably more cost-effective when compared to their traditional counterparts.
The technology has made significant headway in the development of personalized tissue engineering scaffolds, reconstruction of tissue, and direct printing of organs. The organs are not only designed to match the patient’s tissue structure but also to empower cell growth. The 3D implants, with their tissue repair capability, can potentially address the donor-shortage problem.
Healthcare organizations often leverage auto-transplantation, xeno-transplantation, and artificial mechanical organ transplant for the treatment of severe lesions and problems requiring tissue and organ transplant. Even though auto-transplantation is regarded as one of the most effective procedures, it can lead to secondary injuries. In the case of the xeno-transplantation, the patients may face problems such as immunological rejection and viral transmission. The emergence of 3D technology will potentially enable the healthcare providers to overcome the limitations by facilitating personalized construction of bionic tissue and organs.
3D printing works on the principle of layered manufacturing, overlapping material to manufacture components of intricate shapes quickly. It leverages computer-aided design (CAD) and computed tomography (CT) to precisely accumulate the material as per the requirements. The low costs of raw materials, speed, and precision have increased the popularity of 3D technology in the medical sector, leading to the design and production of robust medical equipment, implants, and prints.
It utilizes the patient data, including CT and MRI, to prepare and design organ models, manufacture the scaffolds, and facilitate direct printing at the defect site. The advances in the additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing sector have enhanced research on manufacturing pathological organ models, personalized manufacturing of permanent non-bioactive implants, fabricating local bioactive and biodegradable scaffolds, and printing of tissues and organs with life functions.
Clinical treatment and medical education have also experienced the changes brought by the emergence of AM. It has provided medical organizations with an excellent alternative for manufacturing, helping them move from the traditional process such as casting and forging, which often require considerable time and resources.
Surgeons can leverage 3D printed organ models to conduct surgical analysis and preoperative training, better preparing themselves for the complex surgical procedures. It can also assist in surgical planning and diagnosis. Researchers have leveraged the technology to delve into the development and construction of cervical tumor models. It has also been used to construct anatomical models such as limbs, chest, abdomen, health, and neck utilizing CT or planar scans.
The 3D printed models can be used to study the actual conditions in the affected tissues and organization, empowering doctors to investigate the status of patients. The models are comparatively more durable and accurate when compared to their traditional counterparts, offering higher printing resolution, lesser printing time, and easy availability of raw materials.
In the fields of dentistry and orthopedics, where the implants have to offer high biocompatibility, 3D technology can enable personalized fabrication of intricate implants with greater accuracy and speed. Unlike metallic implants, the 3D printed replacements accommodate bone integrity with their personalized stiffness levels.
The patients treated with 3D printed joint prostheses exhibited excellent motor functions after their operation. Although the technology is being leveraged for permanent implants, researchers are striving to simplify the process further and enhance its performance. Also, the printed implants are significantly lighter and offer high compatibility with human tissue.
The technology has facilitated significant progress in the fabrication of local bioactive and biodegradable scaffolds for tissue and organ transplants. Scaffolds play a crucial role in tissue engineering. The gel and cell mixture is encapsulated into the printed scaffolds. Unlike traditional methods, 3D technology can be used in the creation of complex structures with microscopic pores and macroscopic shapes.
Since scaffolds facilitate cell attachment, they need to have excellent biocompatibility and biodegradability to promote tissue regeneration after the operation. The integration of hydrogels in the 3D network structures can enhance tissue regeneration by empowering cell migration. Researchers are also testing the incorporation of porous membranes and filament meshes to facilitate the growth of blood vessels.
The progress of 3D technology in the medical landscape has led to the enhancement of existing procedures and the development of better approaches. Along with tissue and organ printing, organizations are also testing the printing of blood vessels. The nascent technology has significantly augmented the capabilities of healthcare, enabling organizations to treat a higher number of patients in shorter periods, providing them with better outcomes.