Lately, the process of 3D printing has been receiving considerable media attention. This innovative manufacturing technique permits the remote construction of products via specialized computer printing terminals. A programmable printing head working in conjunction with software deposits material in successive layers in order to construct desired shapes on demand.
Some recent developments in 3D printing hold great promise for improving the daily lives of patients. Medical practitioners and computer engineers have already devised a dazzling array of new applications for this technology. With the advent of more sophisticated 3D printers, many allied health fields will be transformed in the near future. This article will discuss several areas in which this innovation has already begun to shape the future of health care.
How 3D Printing Is Influencing Health Care Industry
The world is already witnessing significant switch from the old and traditional way of object presentation through the use of 3D printing technology.
Medical Modeling and Prosthetics
One of the most promising fields for the application of 3D medical printing relates to the visualization of the human body. Today, surgeons can benefit from the ability to obtain highly detailed, accurate information about a patient’s anatomy in advance of performing surgery. Potentially, a new technology of “bioprinting” would permit a surgeon to create a realistic “model” in three dimensions of some tumors and congenital defects in order to evaluate possible surgical approaches.
More immediately, this innovative field enables the construction and testing of highly effective prosthetic devices molded to fit the precisely measured contours of a patient’s body. During previous decades, technicians struggled to match man-made limbs to best meet individual needs. Now, 3D printing offers a wonderful opportunity to speed up this fitting process. This tool helps patients and prosthetic manufacturers obtain customized devices more rapidly, while at the same time significantly reducing production costs. In addition, realistic cosmetic soft-tissue prostheses in the near future may significantly enhance the quality of life for numerous patients.
Audiologists and hearing aid manufacturers have also begun embracing the benefits of 3D printing. Today, a surprising number of hearing aids reach consumers through this process. By using a sophisticated process to digitally scan the ear, for instance, audiologists can now provide customized hearing aid products very rapidly.
This technology has enabled manufacturers to individualize hearing aids, while also significantly shrinking the size of some devices. For instance, Triton Hearing in New Zealand will soon unveil its Titanium brand, marketed as one of the world’s most diminutive (and least visible) hearing aid.
Applications in Dentistry
The technology of 3D printing has also started to change the highly competitive dental industry. While CNC machines may still provide better surface quality, 3D printing technology is much easier to use and enables a rapid creation of dental prototypes. By carefully imaging the alignment and measurement of teeth, orthodontists now have the ability to craft customized implants much faster. Assessing malocclusions and evaluating corrective treatments during pre-surgical planning may occur more rapidly due to this prototyping technology.
The race to design and market advanced 3D printers in the dental services marketplace testifies to its bright future for this field. For instance, 3D Systems, which maintains a healthcare facility in Colorado, has continued to improve upon its line of popular dental three-dimensional printers. Other firms have also begun competing aggressively in dental marketplaces. Every generation of 3D dental printers offers refinements that increase the speed of model production. Dental manufacturing procedures now occur rapidly, with enhanced accuracy and, often, significantly reduced costs.
A Bright Future
In the next decade, the technology of 3D printing promises to change daily lives for millions of people. It will almost certainly revolutionize patient care, likely in ways we can’t even envision yet.
Already, this technology is making important contributions in fields such as surgical and anatomical modeling, and the manufacturing of medical, audiological and dental prostheses. By providing clinicians with the ability to tailor products more effectively to meet the unique needs of individual patients, this groundbreaking technology will certainly help create a more humane world.
Author Bio: Heather Redding is a tech enthusiast and freelance writer based in Aurora, Illinois. She is a coffee-addict who enjoys swimming and reading. Street photography is her newly discovered artistic outlet and she likes to capture life’s little moments with her camera. You can reach Heather via Twitter.
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