3D printing is a process that creates a physical object from a digital design. There are several different 3D printing technologies and materials that can be used to print with, but all are based on the same principle.
All 3D printing technologies create physical objects from digital designs layer by layer, but each uses its own proprietary method. It enables the production of complex shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.
Many applications include:
- Architectural scale models; and
The medical industry is a field in which innovation and new technologies have a direct impact on improving processes, operation results and saving lives. In the medical field, 3D printing enables doctors to work faster, shorten patient theatre time and improve operation results.
The outlook for medical uses of 3D printing is evolving at an extremely quick pace as specialists are beginning to utilise the technology in more advanced ways. Patients are now experiencing improved quality of care through 3D printed implants and prosthetics. There are also applications such as 3D printing pens, which are evolving orthopaedic surgery.
Advances in healthcare technology
As the list of applications continues to grow, the area of prosthetics has evolved by using 3D printing. Advances have allowed for a new era of inexpensive yet sophisticated prosthetics. Increased availability means that patients can receive customised options, which has led to personalised prosthetics.
Scientists have succeeded in printing 3D structures with living cells by using a new technique called ‘in-air microfluidics’. The new technique enables the fast and ‘in-flight’ production of micro building blocks that are viable and can be used for repairing damaged tissue, for example.
Microfluidics is all about manipulating tiny drops of fluid with sizes between a micrometre and a millimetre.
Many 3D printing techniques are based on using heat or UV light; both would damage living cells. The new microfluidic approach is therefore a promising technique in tissue engineering, in which damaged tissue is repaired by using cultured cell material of the patient.