3D Printing of Body Parts! An Emerging Medical Trend

 In Exercise and Health

3D Printing of Body Parts! An Emerging Medical Trend

3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) and its wide-reaching applications is a trend that can no longer be ignored. 3D printing is the process by which 3 dimensional objects are printed layer by layer using a digital file. In a 3D printer, one or more print heads extrudes a small amount of materials in precise locations to build objects point by point from the bottom up.

In today’s 3D printing world printing output can exist in full colour, with over 250 different materials being used to print. Materials include: titanium to rubber, plastic, glass, ceramic, leathers and even chocolate!

3D Printing Model of Human Foot Bones

3D Printing Model of Human Foot Bones

3D printers can create very complex structures of mixed materials and print almost anything, from jet engines, to jewellery, to houses, and even medical prosthetics. Incredibly construction of large scale projects using 3D printing is no longer problematic.

3D printing can be very cost effective on the basis that only 10% of materials are required to output a tangible 3D bona fide object.

Peter Diamandis (engineer, physician, entrepreneur and Founder of the X Prize Foundation) was quoted as saying:

Ultimately, 3D printing dematerializes, demonetizes and democratizes manufacturing and turns us all into creators.

In the realm of health care on-demand manufacturing will make medical devices cheaper and more readily accessible to millions. 3D printing will also make scarce resources like organs-for-transplant widely and more available.

Some interesting 3D printing facts being:

  • 3D Systems is 3D printing precise dental and anatomical models, custom surgical guides, implantable devices, exoskeletons, hearing aids, prosthetics and braces for scoliosis and other applications.
  • Students at Washington University 3D printed a robotic arm for about $200. Traditional robotic limbs can run $50,000 to $70,000, and they need to be replaced as children grow.
  • Dr. Anthony Atala’s team and companies like Organovo are 3D bio-printing with cells to produce tissues, blood vessels and even small organs.

In a 2016 blog post Peter Diamandis asked 3D printing expert Avi Reichental* what were the top 5 recent breakthroughs in 3D printing, coupled with the top 5 predicted break-throughs for the 3 year window of 2015-2018.

The below is an edited excerpt of Avi’s responses as were published in the Huffington Poist. To read the full article click HERE

Top 5 Recent 3D Printing Breakthroughs: 2013 – 2015

Here are the recent breakthroughs Avi identified as important to 3D printing from 2012 – 2015.

1. 3D printing in full color with 250+ different materials and composites.

Avi explains, “We can now print in full color, which means more than a million different color combinations in a single print. We can also print in 250 different materials. This has never been possible, and with the ability to print many, many new materials and combinations thereof, the creative opportunities are almost limitless.”

2. Customized mass production of 3D printed medical devices.

Avi explains, “We’ve seen a rise in the number of bespoke customized medical devices and parts. Not only are key ‘implants’ like full knee and hip replacement parts customized to you, but the surgical instruments, the jigs, the fixtures, the incision tools, etc. are 3D printed to fit you. One example is hearing aids. These devices, each of which fits into a uniquely shaped ear canal, have been 3D printed for nearly eight years.”

3. Explosion of metal 3D printers in aerospace and automotive industries ushers in an era of ‘mass complexity.’

Today, we have the ability to print with more than 20 different alloys. Companies like GE and SpaceX are 3D printing jet and rocket engines. My company Planetary Resources 3D prints parts of our ARKYD satellites.

This capability unlocks billions of dollars in industrial applications for 3D printing.

4. High-speed 3D printing drives manufacturing at a convincing scale.

Speed is a big deal in 3D printing. If it took two days to print a small object, consumers would never adopt the technology. If it took just two minutes, then everyone would need to have one.
Avi elaborates, “There have been tremendous improvements in speed. The prediction now is that speed is not just going to double every couple of years, but speed is probably going to go 10x, 50x, 100x in the next 5 years. There are quite a few successful companies out there that are demonstrating today that they can get to convincing scale with 3D printing that will be at least a hundred times faster than it is today.”

5. Democratization of the means and skills for everyone to create and make.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen a very significant democratization of 3D printing technology,” says Avi. “This democratization is about the systematic removal of all user friction in the 3D printing process, starting with complex CAD (Computer-Aided Design) and 3D modeling. The connectivity of devices and the cloud, the ability to search and download images, to have intelligent search engines that are searching three-dimensional models, the ability to price and share and source and print, etc. All of this represents the democratization that makes 3D printing accessible to the other 99 percent, not just to the designers.”

This is the user interface moment for 3D printing – when it’s easy enough and fun for everybody to use.

So what’s in store for the near future?

Top 5 Anticipated 3D Printing Breakthroughs 2016 – 2018

Here are Avi’s predictions for the most exciting, disruptive developments coming in 3D printing technology over the next three years. As entrepreneurs and investors, these are the areas you should be focusing on, as the business opportunities are tremendous.

1. Personalized nutrition made possible with new breed of 3D printers.

Personalized food and nutrition is about to get really exciting. As Avi illustrates, “At the end of the day, your home food printer will create a personalized nutrition bar based on your needs in that moment, containing the amount of proteins, carbs, vitamins and supplements needed in that moment.”

Next, we’ll see 3D printing playing in the pharmaceuticals space, where your medical pill is printed (compounded and created) specifically for your needs that day.

2. Printed shoes and textiles disrupt fashion, apparel and retail industries.

Fashion is going to be disrupted in a big way. “Through the combination of scanning, digitizing, computing, sensing, active performance monitoring, and mixed materials, we will be able to print fully functional clothing and wearable devices,” says Avi.

Shoes will be tailor-made based on your posture, your stance, and your arch. Accessories will be customizable and immediately printable. Everything will be perfectly designed to fit your body.

You’ll be able to see a beautiful new dress designed in Paris that morning, buy it, and print it in your closet to wear that evening.

3. Printing of finished mixed-material devices (rubber, structure, wiring) – e.g. electronics, cars, houses…

“Today you can 3D print a toy truck with rubber tires, metal chassis, clear plastic or glass windshield in a single print. The next level of this,” Avi says, “is to print a fully functional device with circuits and sensors and logic.”

4. “Factory in a Box’ combines additive + subtractive manufacturing, delivering 100x speeds.ing CNC machining, additive layering, and even injection molding. It will all be unified into boxes that will become the factory of the future.”

5. 3D printing of human organs and tissues.

Researchers have convincingly demonstrated that simple organs and complex tissues can now be 3D printed.

By harvesting our own stem cells, multiplying them, and then depositing them onto collagen scaffolding of the desired organ, these miraculous cells grow into a fully implantable, functional organ.
Avi predicts, “In seven to 10 years, we will be in the business of replacing parts and organs that our bodies will not reject, and then perhaps we’ll have organs that were even better than the ones we were born with.”

At the same time, why not “print” a biosensor into your liver or heart to monitor its health and provide continuous data?

I personally believe that there has arguably never been a more exciting time to be on the earth! The implications of these 3D printing trends on health care are enormous.

Let’s watch this space!

Feel free to leave me a comment in the notes below.

Brad Beer


Brad Beer physiotherapist gold coast


*Avi is the Founder and CEO of XponentialWorks, an expert advisory, venture investment and incubation ecosystem company that is focused on monetizing exponential tech innovation and business model disruption. For 12 years, Avi was the CEO of 3D Systems, the largest publicly traded 3D printing Company in the world.

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