3D printing is the procedure of building objects in three dimensions by utilizing a computer-aided design model. The process involves adding of materials one layer after another until the entire object is constructed. Therefore, 3D printing is a model of additive manufacturing. Contrary to popular belief, 3D printing is not a recent phenomenon as it was established back in 1974 by one David. E. H. Jones. Efforts were put towards creating a prototype in the early 1980s. 3D printing technology, therefore, started to gain popularity in the early 1990s. However, most people could not afford the devices. In late 2000, 3D printing became a common phenomenon. Since then, practitioners in different industries have made it their business to apply the technology in various sectors. Medical 3D printing is one of the many applications. In this post, we discuss applications of 3D printing in the medical industry.
3D printing in the medical sector
From dental care to prosthetics, there are several applications of 3D printing in health care. Some of these applications include:
- 3D printing of hearing aids and bionic ears
The first reported 3D printed hearing aid was developed in 1998. More than two decades later, close to ninety-nine percent of existing hearing aids are manufactured through 3D printing. The continued advancements in 3D technology have made this possible. For instance, one 3D printer is capable of printing up to thirty hearing aids or bionic ears in less than an hour.
Additionally, 3D printing is used in the construction of bionic ears. A bionic ear is an artificial ear that is housed in a bionic structure. A bionic structure, therefore, is a 2D structure that is constructed in the form of a skeleton. The ear consists of electronic devices. In addition to this, the ear is packed with cells surrounded by a cartilage. Also, it is covered with the skin allowing it to look as natural as possible. Like a natural ear, a bionic ear is extremely sensitive to waves hence can function naturally. However, for the ear to keep functioning correctly, the wearer has to continually provide its cells with nutrients, in a process called vascularization.
- Stem Cell construction
A group of scientists from a University in Scotland known as Heriot-Watt used a 3D printer to print the first artificial stem cells. Through valve-based printing, the scholars were able to maintain the printed cells at a high viability level and come up with a uniform size of spheroids that promote accuracy. Therefore, 3D technology has led to the development of stem cell implantation technology, which has led to a decrease in cases of organ rejection after transplants.
Other applications of 3D printing in medicine
- Printing of prosthetics
- Printing of bones or parts of bones
- Printing of dental implants
- Development of surgical models
Other than architecture and there are several different applications of 3D printing. Some of these applications include; mechanics, chemical industry, food, education aeronautics, and space as well. Several other applications are likely to arise soon.