Oct 14 2019
3D printing in the medical device industry is moving full-steam ahead. Researchers and engineers are finding creative ways to design and print all kinds of new devices that are improving healthcare practices for professionals and patients.
There are many reasons why 3D printing has a big future in the medical device industry, including faster production, dramatically decreased costs, highly customized care, and new device capabilities altogether. The world of medical device design and 3D printing is a fascinating one, so we thought we’d take a look at a few of the most innovative and cutting-edge devices emerging in the market today.
Source: Temple University
Regular adhesive bandages work well and are simple enough to produce, but 3D printing could take them to a new level of customization and recovery. Researchers at Temple University have discovered a way to 3D print bandages directly onto the skin. This helps wounds stay protected and heal more quickly, while also lending the patient more freedom when wearing it. 3D-printed bandages like these have the potential to help difficult wounds, like burns, heal properly.
Source: Open Bionics
3D-printed prosthetics have a number of advantages, including offering a more affordable alternative for those who might not be able to afford traditional prosthetics. Typically, myoelectric prosthetic arms can cost around $10K, but 3D-printed ones can cost 90% less. Organizations like e-NABLE are even working to provide 3D-printed prosthetics for free. 3D-printed prosthetic arms and hands are already gaining in popularity, and this is soon to become more common for prosthetic legs and other body parts as well.
3D-Printed Splints, Casts, and Braces
Source: The Cortex Cast, Evill Design
Traditional plaster casts are often frustrating: they are heavy, uncomfortable on the skin and unable to get wet. While 3D-printed splints and casts aren’t yet commercially available, there are many promising projects that look to solve these common problems with a more lightweight, waterproof, and open design, like the Cortex Cast pictured above. This is another area in which 3D printing medical devices can be incredibly affordable — one finger splint design only requires 2￠ of plastic to print!
When it comes to custom care, the most progress for 3D-printed medical devices has arguably been made for implants. Implants are a higher risk medical device, but 3D printing would allow for a greater level of personalization by ensuring the device fits each patient’s specific anatomy. 3D-printed implants are already being used for hip, spine, and jaw procedures. The results so far are promising: for example, over 94% of 3D printed titanium dental implants have been successful.
3D-Printed Organ and Tumor Models
Source: University of Minnesota
The biggest, and perhaps most anticipated challenge in medical device 3D printing is organ printing. While researchers still have a long way to go to print viable organs, immense progress is being made in 3D printing organ and tumor models. 3D-printed heart models can now mimic real human organ tissue and can even be equipped with sensors that provide real-time feedback to surgeons in training. Researchers have also been able to 3D print realistic models of cancerous tumors, which have the potential to be a breakthrough for cancer drug development and understanding how cancer develops and spreads.
Find out how to minimize design risk, work under strict regulations, and innovate with engineering training for the medical device industry.
About the Author
SolidProfessor commercial content marketer and unironic classic rock record collector