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If there’s one field that has been transformed by the advent of 3D printing, it’s the medical field.
3D printing has opened up a wealth of new avenues and possibilities for professionals in the medical field, from physicians to tech specialists, medical device manufacturers, clinicians, instructors, and more. The capability to rapidly produce models and products using 3D printers has given medical pros a new, powerful tool to create the tools they need to ultimately provide better care for patients.
The realm of opportunity with medical 3D printing is almost limitless, and we’ve only scratched the surface. Here’s an overview of how 3D printing technology is helping to revolutionize the medical field.
Medical Device Innovation
The medical device industry is a $110 billion market that delivers vital devices for the livelihood and health of millions of patients in the U.S. Creating new devices through invention and adapting existing devices into better versions of themselves through innovation is what drives success in the medical field, but the process can be long, costly, and fraught with obstacles and challenges.
One thing that helps to accelerate the innovation of medical devices over the past decade has been 3D printing. 3D printing helps manufacturers and inventors rapidly build prototypes of their devices that allow them to identify areas for improvement – and take less time for revisions than before.
By having an in-house 3D printing capability, device makers can reduce the time it takes from idea inception to verification, validation, and production. The more time that is saved, the more innovation can be performed for a particular device – devices that lead directly to saving lives.
Examples of 3D printed medical devices include wearable devices, such as finger splints, cast replacements, and prosthetic and orthotic devices. For an example, see this story about how we, in conjunction with the Limbitless program at the University of Central Florida, helped a young girl in California receive a surprise prosthetic device.
3D printing isn’t just for prototyping and product development; it has also been used to manufacture medical products.
3D printing eliminates manufacturing constraints and makes production more agile and responsive. By using 3D printing technology, manufacturers can reduce the total cost of the product by speeding up the manufacturing process and using materials that, on balance, are more cost-effective than traditional materials.
The end result is a lower cost, faster process, and rapid delivery for early commercialization or clinical trial evaluation. Manufacturers that have used 3D printing to make their products have benefited by a faster time to market, which ultimately helps drive higher revenue and profits.
This is particularly apparent with tooling as an alternative to machining. You can carry out more revisions in design and tooling at a fraction of the cost it would take to do so with traditional machining processes.
3D printing is also advantageous when it comes to creating complex geometries that can’t be produced in any other way, especially not with traditional manufacturing processes. This eliminates design constraints that free up the manufacturer to expand horizons.
Taking Advantage of Medical 3D Printing
The benefits of 3D printing in the medical space have allowed countless manufacturers and designers the ability to rapidly innovate and create. This ultimately will lower costs and speed up the process so that devices and products use to come to market.
Additionally, 3D printing has been a boon for instructors in academic settings as well as physicians in the field, who use 3D-printed models not only for instruction, but for better diagnostics and better patient care.
There’s no question that medical 3D printing changes lives and creates new possibilities in a crucial area – and as technology matures, these possibilities will only increase.