They are considered one of the outstanding achievements for medicine in the 21st century. Enabled by enormous interdisciplinary research and development services, 3D printed applications can already improve the quality of care in various medical areas.
The forecast annual growth rate of the global market for 3D printing technologies in medicine
- Exponential increase in corresponding publications in medical journals on this topic
- Demonstrate the high relevance of the technologies for the manufacture of medicinal products and medical devices as well as for clinical application and research alike
3D printing in medical applications
3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that uses a digital model to create three-dimensional objects by applying layers of material. The first techniques of 3D printing were developed in the 1980s. However, the transfer to the medical field only took place in the past decade.
For the creation of a 3D-printed medical object, an anatomical target area (e.g. heart) is first defined. Using an imaging method (e.g. CT or MRT), image data is generated from the target area, which then has to be converted and optimized in a format that is valid for layer-by-layer 3D printing. The resulting digital model shows a three-dimensional, patient-specific, scale representation of the target area.
Which application scenarios arise for medicine
The medical application of 3D printing technologies essentially covers the following five areas:
The manufacture of implants and prostheses is currently the most widespread field of application for 3D printing in medicine
The most well-known application of 3D printing in medicine is tissue and organ printing (bioprinting). This printing can also help with spa-marketing. The principle is based on a combination of biocompatible materials, living cells and growth factors.
The model for operational planning and education allows doctors to better plan complex operations on patient-specific models and to be able to try out the course of the procedure in advance.
Certain operations or anatomical peculiarities may require the production of patient-specific medical instruments and aids such as stencils, wound hooks or holding devices. With the help of 3D printing, these can be produced inexpensively and with high accuracy.
Another area of application with great future prospects is personalized pharmaceutical production.