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The medical industry is renowned for being advanced in new treatments and techniques. There are several technologies that help drive the industry forward faster. Additive manufacturing is the latest of such technology that has been helping to boost the effectiveness of healthcare industry in recent times.

Also known as 3D printing, the additive manufacturing technology is creating immense opportunities in the healthcare sector. According to a market research by SmarTech Analysis, the global 3D printing market is currently valued at around US$ 1.25 billion and is expected to grow to an astonishing US$ 6.08 billion by 2027. This clearly shows the immense potential of additive manufacturing in the healthcare industry.

Applications of Additive Manufacturing in Healthcare

Let’s take a closer look at some of the innovative ways that the healthcare industry is benefiting from 3D printing technology:

1 – Orthopaedic implants

Orthopaedic implants are medical devices that are surgically implanted to replace a damaged or missing joint or bone. Conventionally, orthopaedic implants have been made from stainless steel, titanium and other similar non-corrosive metals.

However, with the unique abilities of the 3D printing technique, it is possible to design and develop a wide range of implants, such as hip, spinal, skull and knee implants to name a few. Reports suggest that at the end of 2019, there were over 600,000 implants created using 3D printing technology and the number of such implants is expected to rise to around 4 million by 2027.

One of the main reasons that 3D printed implants are getting popular is because the technique has potential to create implants with excellent performance.

2 – Personalized surgery

The 3D printing technology allows creating patient-specific models of organs and customized surgical tools with the help of the patient’s own body images. Additive manufacturing is mostly being used to create anatomical models that are proving extremely vital for precise pre-surgery planning by surgeons. These are extremely accurate anatomical models that help surgeons determine the best source of action for the treatment.

Usually, the imaging technician takes a CT scan or MRI scan. These scans are analysed closely and edited to remove undesired areas, keeping only the areas of interest in view (called as “Segmentation”). There are different ways required to create bones, organs and blood vessels. Once the model is prepared on the computer, it is sent directly to the 3D printer for creation.

Using personalized surgery technique with 3D printed anatomical models, it is possible to reduce the time spent by a patient in the operating room.

3 – Customized surgical tools

This is another area where additive manufacturing is being heavily implemented in the healthcare industry. Surgical instruments, such as scalpel handles, hemostats, forceps, etc. can be produced accurately and faster with additive manufacturing methods.

To meet this demand, 3D printing manufacturers are discovering new and strong biocompatible material to be used for creating customized surgical tools for precise and more successful surgeries.

Conclusion

The 3D printing technology has great potential for application in healthcare industry. Continued research in the field is expected to showcase more instances where additive manufacturing can be beneficial for the medical industry.