3D printing in the healthcare sector: how it meets critical needs
The inclusion of different technological innovations takes the healthcare sector to the next level. It’s a global fact now that no one even tries to deny it. 3D printing is one of those innovations that is transforming the medical industry for good.
Obviously, the potential of this invention is vast. In fact, according to a research firm, the 3D printing market will reach around $ 6 billion by the end of 2027. Many industries, including orthopedics and dentistry, are benefiting from this technology. In addition, it offers new methods of personalized care and allows providers to create more efficient medical devices.
Until the pandemic hit the world, this new technique helped the medical industry in the following ways:
Making Anatomical Replicas: Simply put, doctors use it to clarify different aspects of disease diagnosis, thereby improving treatment decisions and strategies. These models allow physicians to understand the patient’s anatomy and use technology to help patients understand medical procedures.
Surgical tools: Previously, surgical instruments were made of titanium or aluminum. However, with the inclusion of 3D printing, surgeons can use it to make restorative treatments more precise. In fact, it is ideal for low cost prototyping.
Prosthetics: It won’t be wrong to say that custom prosthetics are both time consuming and expensive. However, with 3D printing, one could quickly produce patient-specific components, matching the user’s anatomy.
· But that was a pre-covid scenario. Everything took a different course after the pandemic. This event put enormous pressure on health systems around the world. The demand for medical equipment and supplies has increased several times. So what has changed? Let’s find out now!
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3D printing in the post-Covid era: what’s different?
Although the healthcare industry has faced unprecedented circumstances, it has shown remarkable resilience and has been heroic despite all challenges. But, the pandemic has also highlighted the need for healthcare transformation.
Simultaneously, the pandemic has revealed that innovative technologies like 3D printing could support patients and their critical needs. This is why there is a shift towards a forward looking approach to health. Here are some of the trends you can expect in 2021 and the years to come.
In 2020, healthcare materials experienced a shortage due to disrupted supply chains. So, 3D labs quickly changed and adapted to circumstances. They redefined their strategy and moved from printing anatomical models to printing protective equipment. Indeed, it stands out as a reliable ally in the face of fluctuating supply chains. Thus, expanding its use in the health sector. For now, 3D printing is helping deliver cost-effective medical devices on demand. You can get everything from stents to surgical instruments made using a 3D printer. Experts suggest it will quickly replace current systems and help the world gain access to medical devices.
With social distancing, everyone was looking for innovative ways to collaborate and communicate. Likewise, in the healthcare sector, the rapid use of digital tools has improved cases of remote diagnosis. And point-of-care 3D printing labs are becoming efficient and essential in bridging communication gaps between clinicians and patients. For example, an online platform named Materialize Mimics Viewer improves digital communications and collaborations when sharing 3D patient models. This platform eliminates the need for any physical space to share comments or treatment strategies with doctors or patients.
In the future, you can expect advanced visualization technologies like VR / AR integrated into 3D printing applications. This will stimulate the visualization of clinical cases, especially for training purposes. Not only that, but it will also help with rapid prototyping, which can still help surgeons during surgeries.
The use of 3D printing in hospitals will increase, further increasing the need for quality management systems.
The updated DICOM standard will pave the way for integrating 3D printing and planning into clinical workflow. You can easily archive or retrieve a 3D printing file. Thus, increase the traceability of files. For example, a new DICOM wrapped OBJ file supported in MIS 24 has already been released in May 2021.
Like any other technology, 3D printing is also evolving and modernizing to meet the needs of today and tomorrow. Thus, we can now easily access medical grade 3D printers. In addition, the affordability associated with modern equipment will further facilitate the adoption of 3D printing in healthcare.
And after that ?
Let’s not forget that the world is facing a massive organ shortage crisis. Since 2013, the number of patients requiring organ donation has doubled, while the actual number of donors has not changed much. That is why scientists are working on regenerative medicine. It involves using scaffolds, biomaterials, cells to create organs for transplants. 3D printing plays a central role in the creation of biomaterials from living cells and synthetic biomimetic polymers.
The use of 3D printing in the development of personalized or precision medicine. The inclusion of 3D printers in pharmacies and hospitals will help them take a dose or delivery system depending on the size, age, gender and lifestyle of the patient. For example, Aprecia Pharmaceuticals has previously approved 3D printed pharmaceuticals for the treatment of epilepsy.
The health sector is facing many problems linked to the R&D crisis. The use of bio-printed tissues or organs would help to solve such problems. Thus, it will speed up the R&D process.
It is clear that 3D printing has a role to play in the transformation of the healthcare system. In addition, this emerging technology acts as a driving force to improve personalized care. Not only can it help patients with personalized implants, but it can also help cope with the current global crisis by providing personalized medicine tablets.
In fact, in the battle against COVID-19, 3D printing companies have helped deliver essential medical products to patients. Continuing progress in this area is of the utmost importance to improve agile and personalized patient care.
Without a doubt, it is revolutionizing the healthcare industry in multiple ways. But, 3D printing manufacturers must follow the rules to make instruments and items made using this technology widely acceptable.
Do you look forward to a world where you have widespread access to prosthetics, fully functioning bioidentical organs that bring new life to millions of people?
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