By Elizabeth Lucas
Elizabeth Lucas works as a copywriter and web developer for the professional writing essaywriter.nyc. She is interested in technologies which give her an inspiration to write her own articles and short stories.
Biocompatible materials in 3D printing make it possible to work with the technology in more and more medical fields. The advantages of 3D printing have become particularly evident as a result of the corona pandemic: It is not only possible to manufacture Covid-19 test sticks or print patient-specific prostheses – individualized biomolecular chips can also be 3D printed.
3D printing has made impressive progress: the technology is now an established force in medicine and beyond. 3D printing is an important tool, especially for the future of precision medicine and the development of medical products. The ongoing development within the technology has made it more accessible, but above all more versatile: From components for ventilation systems to prostheses and surgical instruments – doctors and technicians for medical products use 3D printing to quickly, safely and inexpensively use new aids that optimize the standard of medical care.
3D printers used in medicine are specially designed for this application: patient-specific parts can be printed within a day at the “point of care” and biocompatible materials enable fast and effective research and development of small quantities on site – of surgical planning models and surgical ones From stencils to radiation therapy and sleep apnea machines.
3D printing also showed its advantages during the corona pandemic: When the national emergency was declared in the USA in March 2020, global supply chains collapsed at the same time. With the help of 3D printing, companies were able to adapt their production immediately and produce urgently needed medical parts. This enabled the production of over 40 million Covid-19 test strips and 3D printing of components for personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators.
Pneumothorax: Safe introduction of catheters
But 3D printing is also already being used in medicine. The technology has recently been helping doctors to develop new solutions for the treatment of pneumothorax. If a lung has collapsed, medical professionals insert a catheter. This can result in kinking and dislocation of needle decompression catheters. In this case, complications often arise that can be fatal for a patient. A new aid is the so-called “Tension Square”: A device that holds a needle decompression securely in place and at the same time prevents harmful kinks, folds or peeling. Advances in 3D printing make it possible to precisely produce the final device on a 3D printer.
Individual medical products thanks to the flexibility of 3D printing
Another area of application of 3D printing is prosthetics: Modern 3D printing methods enable medical technicians and engineers to realize precisely fitting prostheses as well as extreme cost savings compared to traditional manufacturing methods. In addition to time-consuming and complex manufacturing processes, conventional prosthesis manufacture is primarily associated with horrendous costs: the amounts for a conventionally manufactured, customized aid are in the four to five-digit range.
Especially with regard to the appearance of the prostheses, 3D printing opens up new possibilities: details such as skin tones or freckles can be reproduced authentically and facial prostheses can also be made deceptively real. In addition, an individualized design and color selection by the user is possible, which can contribute to the psychological acceptance of such an aid. In this way, a prosthesis can be concealed or emphasized depending on the patient’s wishes.
3D printing as a driver of innovation
DNA-specific genetic tests and their detection are among the fastest developing areas in medical research. 3D printers play a crucial role in this. Thanks to their ability to produce customized biomolecular chips quickly and at an affordable price, they help in the effective implementation of these innovations. Pixelbio is one of the pioneers in this approach. The Heidelberg-based company specializes in the genetic testing of single molecules and has found a way to transform the medical and diagnostic field with genetic research using 3D-printed molecular biochips. By using the single-molecular fluorescence in situ hybridization Hulu Fish, a simple and quick detection of genes by means of different colored probes is possible. These are shown in a 3D-printed molecular biochip. The product is the industry’s first customizable multiplex sm-fish solution and is manufactured using the stereolithography process (SLA) in 3D printing.
Due to its properties – such as low opacity – Formlabs Black Resin has proven to be very effective in creating molecular biochips. The resin has delivered convincing results during production, so that Pixelbio now also uses the 3D-printed chips to test new ideas directly. This has saved the company time and money, as well as running a large number of tests with new designs in a matter of days.
Diverse areas of application in medicine
With 3D printing, it is possible to achieve faster production of medical products. In addition, the procurement process for aids is shortened significantly. For example, medical devices can be manufactured directly in the in-house laboratory instead of being commissioned by external companies. Not only do doctors and technicians benefit from this, but above all the patients. You can be helped faster than it was a few years ago. The future of medicine therefore lies in tailor-made, patient-specific supply with more agile and more responsive supply chains and the ability to create prototypes and produce end products even faster.