Technologies Shaping the Future of the Medical Industry (Part 2)

29 August 2019

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This week we look at 3D Printing...

What is it?

The process of making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by a mechanical printer, laying down many thin layers of a material in succession.

3D Printers generally range from £2,000 - £6,000

 

The most significant developments in 3D printing have come in external prosthetics, cranial or orthopaedic implants, and custom airway stents. It has also proven helpful in surgical planning and has been used in complex open-heart surgeries, and even total face transplant!

The Process

The first step in manufacturing a 3D printed implant is the generation of detailed and accurate 3D images.

Currently, computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are two widely used methods. The resulting images are stored in a digital imaging and communications in medicine (DICOM) format.

These three-dimensional images of the part that needs to be printed are used for the implant designs. This data is what’s used to design the implant, after which it is finally converted to g-code, which is basically the software code that holds the ‘commands’ which tell the printer what to do.

 

After 3D printing, the printed implant is sterilized in preparation for surgery. Unlike conventional implants, 3D printed Patient-specific implants eliminate the risk of instability, adapting to the bone

How will it impact the Medical Industry?

Medical devices can now be perfectly matched to the exact specifications of a patient and be compatible with their natural anatomy.

3D printing will allow more tailored implants - a patient’s body is more likely to accept implants, prosthetics, and devices when they’re aligned and customized, and the patient experiences greater comfort and improved performance as a result

3D printing is already used widely used now in Prosthetics and Orthopaedic Implants. It will continue to make breakthroughs in minimally invasive surgery, as 3D printing becomes even more accurate down to microns, allowing the printing of drug-infused stents

 

What does it mean?

Talks of printing human tissue have suggested that organ transplants may one day be obsolete! Imagine a day when an Organ waiting list could be overcome by the ability to simply print a new heart, liver or kidney!

 

Which Areas are leading the way?

  • Orthopaedics
  • Prosthetics
  • Drug-infused stents
  • Patient Specific Implants (PSI)

 

You can read the first part of Kieran's blog here