Welcome back to our series of articles covering everything you need to know about 3D printing. Last time we covered the different methods of 3D printing. This week we will look at the different ways in which 3D printing is used.
Ways To Use 3D Printing
3D printing has a wide variety of potential uses, many of which are game changers in their respective fields.
Perhaps the most exciting area of 3D printing, and one that holds incredible promise for the future, is in the medical field. 3D printers are now capable of printing human tissues using genetic materials, which can then be incubated, grow into living tissue, and be implanted into a living organism. Yes, you read that right: it is now possible to 3D print an organ. While this may seem like science fiction, it stands to revolutionize medicine and health care.
The source material is the patient’s own cells, ensuring the organ’s acceptance into the host when implanted. The current method of 3D organ printing starts with a skeletal structure, usually referred to as a scaffold, and with the patient’s cells added onto this. Engineers are currently working on the next generation of printers that will accomplish both of these tasks at the same time.
If successful, 3D organ printing will change the harrowing world of organ donation, vastly improving the chances that an organ will be accepted by a patient’s body since it is made using their own cells, and also eliminating long wait times that patients must often endure while a suitable donor is located. This is the type of 3D printing that could most significantly change the course of humanity.
Prosthetics have also benefited from 3D printing in the medical arena, enabling bespoke solutions for people with a variety of disabilities. Instead of relying on a standard model prosthesis and then adapting them for each individual, 3D printing allows the design to be tailored to each person. The World Health Organization estimates that there is a shortage of 40,000 trained prosthetists in poor countries around the world, and 3D printed prosthetics have started to slowly chip away at that number. There is a particular benefit for children who need a prosthetic body part: since they will inevitably grow out of a prosthesis, designs can be adjusted as the child grows to adapt to their new size accordingly, and at a greatly reduced cost.
We have only scraped the surface of the possibilities of 3D printing. Join us next time as we continue to explore 3D printing uses.