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The latest medical applications for 3D printing

The latest medical applications for 3D printing

3D printing is a technology which has been revolutionising a range of industries, including mining, automotives, tabletop gaming, architecture and more. However, there are more 3D printing related innovations being made in the field of medicine than any other area. It’s undeniable that 3D printing can be used to construct some really cool objects, but even better is that it can be used to save lives. Here are some of the latest medical applications for 3D printing.

Human arm training models

3D printed objects have been a useful accessory to help doctors train for specific surgeries. Having a dimensionally accurate model of a person’s organ or limb enables the surgeon to practice operating on the model to improve the chances of success when it comes to the real operation. As technologies become more sophisticated, training models are now starting to closely resemble their human counterparts, in look and feel.

One hyper-realistic human arm training model created by San Draw is superior to the competition. It was printed in PLA with an FDM printer and features a replaceable skin pad. It’s particularly useful for training purposes as it accurately mimics the feel of suturing and ligation with realistic feedback and tension.

3D printed hearts

Fully functional 3D printed organs have remained the holy grail of 3D printing technology, although this innovation has remained firmly on the horizon for years, we may have just taken a step closer to actualising this dream. Celprogen, a global stem cell research company, announced their success in 3D printing a heart using unique PLA scaffolds containing human cardiac stem cells. The team are powering forward to determine whether this technology can be used to create transplantable heart and cure heart disease in the near future.

On-demand bones

Complex and costly bone replacement surgeries could soon become a thing of the past. Researchers have created a “hyperelastic” bone which could be constructed using a 3D printing machine and would be dimensionally accurate according to the specific contours of the patient’s body. This bone would be fully functional and would be far easier to install than conventional bone replacement surgeries which involves autografting - a painful and lengthy procedure.

The hyperelastic bone product is made from hydroxyapatite - a naturally occurring mineral that exists in our bones and teeth. This strong and durable material is designed to offer chemical cues to stem cells in the human body to create bone. Unlike the lengthy process involved in autografting, a patient could come into the surgery with a bad break, get x-rayed and have a new bone part printed and installed the same day.

Indian dentists gain a competitive edge

Similar to the story above, dentists in India have been using 3D scanning technology to take an image of a person’s mouth and then use the specific dimensions to digitally create a blueprint for replacement teeth - constructed using a 3D printer! Because the technology is so individualised, each replacement tooth will slide right in place as it has been designed according to the contours of your mouth. It has been reported that this new method of tooth replacement is 50 times more accurate than the previous methodology, so don’t be surprised to hear more about it in the West too.

Gopal Sathe
, writing for Gadgets 360, states that “another advantage comes from the fact that the printers use a material called Med610 - a medical grade, biocompatible material which is safe for use in the body. This can be used for printing something called a drill guide, which the surgeon can attach to your gums based on plans that were devised from your model, to more quickly and accurately carry out a procedure.”

Tagged with: medicine, 3D scanning, replacement teeth, bones