3D Printing’s Impact on the Medical Device Industry

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3D printed mold making process

3D Printing's Impact on the Medical Device Industry.

Find out how 3D printing technology is enabling new possibilities and solutions in the medical device industry

3D printing has disrupted the medical device industry by enabling new possibilities for innovation, customization and efficiency. In this article, we will explore how 3D printing has transformed the medical device industry in four key areas: customization of medical devices, rapid prototyping, reduction of costs and creation of biocompatible materials. We will also discuss the future of 3D printing in this field and provide some recommendations for those who are interested in utilizing this technology.


Customization

3D printing allows for the customization of medical devices to suit the specific needs and preferences of individual patients. Unlike conventional methods that produce standardized parts that may not fit well or function optimally for every patient, 3D printing can create parts that are tailored to the patient’s anatomy, physiology and pathology. This can improve the performance, comfort and aesthetics of the devices.

Some examples of custom medical devices made with 3D printing are:

  • Prosthetics: 3D printing can create prosthetic limbs that are lightweight, durable and personalized to match the patient’s appearance and functionality. For example, a company called UNYQ uses 3D scanning and printing to create prosthetic covers that reflect the patient’s style and personality.
  • Hearing aids: 3D printing can create hearing aids that are customized to fit the patient’s ear canal shape and size. This can enhance the sound quality, comfort and discretion of the devices. For example, a company called Sonova uses 3D scanning and printing to produce over a million hearing aids per year.
  • Dental restorations: 3D printing can create dental restorations such as crowns, bridges and implants that are customized to match the patient’s teeth shape, color and bite . This can improve the durability, accuracy and aesthetics of the devices. For example, a company called Align Technology uses 3D scanning and printing to produce over 500 thousand clear aligners per day.

Customization benefits patients in various ways. It can:

  • Enhance patient satisfaction by providing them with more choices and control over their treatment options.
  • Improve patient outcomes by reducing complications such as infection, rejection or failure of the devices.
  • Increase patient adherence by making them more comfortable and confident with their devices.
3D printing master pattern

A company called UNYQ specializes in producing custom stylized prosthetics.


3D Printing - Rapid Prototyping

3D printing enables rapid prototyping of medical devices, which means manufacturers can quickly design, print and test medical device prototypes before moving to mass production. This can save time and money, as well as improve the quality and functionality of the devices.

Some examples of medical devices that use 3D printing for rapid prototyping are:

  • Drug delivery devices: 3D printing can create drug delivery devices such as inhalers and injectors that can deliver precise doses of medication to patients. For example, a company called GlaxoSmithKline uses 3D printing to prototype inhalers that can monitor patient adherence and provide feedback.
  • Surgical instruments: 3D printing can create surgical instruments such as forceps, scissors and clamps that can be customized for specific procedures or patients. For example, a company called OssDsign uses 3D printing to prototype surgical guides that help surgeons implant cranial implants with accuracy.
  • Medical models: 3D printing can create medical models such as organs, bones and tumors that can be used for preoperative planning and training. For example, a company called Materialise uses 3D printing to prototype anatomical models that help surgeons prepare for complex surgeries.

Rapid prototyping benefits manufacturers in various ways. It can:

  • Accelerate product development by reducing design iterations and feedback loops.
  • Enhance product innovation by enabling more complex and novel designs that are not possible with conventional methods.
  • Reduce product risk by allowing early testing and validation of device performance and safety.
3D printing printed master mold

A 3D printed medical model used by surgeons to prepare for complex surgeries.


3d Printing - Reduction of Costs

3D printing can reduce the cost of medical devices by eliminating the need for expensive molds, tools and materials that are required for conventional manufacturing methods. 3D printing can also create complex and customized parts with less waste and fewer defects. Additionally, 3D printing can save time and money by enabling faster prototyping, testing and production cycles.

Some examples of medical devices that use 3D printing to reduce cost are:

  • Adaptive aids: 3D printing can create adaptive aids such as utensils, bottle openers and key holders that help arthritis patients perform daily tasks more easily. These aids can be printed with low-cost plastic materials that are durable and ergonomic. For example, a study found that 3D printing 20 adaptive aids would save about $400 compared to buying them online.
  • Prosthetics: 3D printing can create prosthetics such as hands, arms and legs that are affordable and accessible for amputees. These prosthetics can be printed with lightweight and biocompatible materials that are comfortable and functional. For example, a company called e-NABLE uses 3D printing to produce prosthetic hands that cost less than $50 compared to thousands of dollars for traditional ones.
  • Surgical guides: 3D printing can create surgical guides such as cutting blocks, drilling templates and implant positioning guides that help surgeons perform precise and accurate operations. These guides can be printed with sterilizable and biodegradable materials that are customized for each patient’s anatomy. For example, a study found that using 3D printed surgical guides reduced operating room time by an average of 23 minutes per case, resulting in a cost saving of $2700 per case.

Cost reduction benefits both patients and manufacturers in various ways. It can:

  • Increase patient access by making medical devices more affordable and available for those who need them.
  • Improve patient quality of life by providing them with more effective and comfortable devices that enhance their health outcomes.
  • Boost manufacturer competitiveness by enabling them to offer more innovative and customized products at lower prices.
3D printing SLA mold

e-NABLE produces a low cost prosthetic hand.


3D Printing - Future Trends

3D printing is a rapidly evolving technology that has the potential to revolutionize health care in various ways. 3D printing can create medical devices that are more personalized, functional and accessible than ever before. 3D printing can also enable new applications and innovations that can improve diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases.

Some examples of future trends and opportunities for 3D printing in medical devices are:

  • Organ models: 3D printing can create realistic organ models that mimic the structure, function and pathology of human organs. These models can be used for surgical planning, training and simulation, as well as drug testing and development. For example, a company called BIOLIFE4D uses 3D printing to create bioengineered heart models that can be used for cardiac research and education.
  • Antibacterial parts: 3D printing can create parts that have antibacterial properties that can prevent infections and complications. These parts can be used for implants, prosthetics and surgical instruments that are exposed to bacteria. For example, researchers from the University of Sheffield have developed a 3D-printed compound that can kill common bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
  • Sensors: 3D printing can create sensors that can be printed directly on moving organs such as the heart or lungs. These sensors can monitor vital signs such as blood pressure, oxygen levels and heart rate in real time. For example, researchers from Stanford University have developed a 3D-printed sensor that can adhere to the heart wall and measure cardiac strain without damaging the tissue.

Future trends and opportunities for 3D printing in medical devices offer various benefits for patients, doctors and manufacturers. They can:

  • Enhance patient care by providing more accurate diagnosis, effective treatment and personalized devices that suit their needs.
  • Advance medical research by enabling new discoveries, innovations and collaborations across disciplines.
  • Optimize medical resources by reducing waste, cost and environmental impact of medical device production and delivery.
3D printing  printed fixtures

3D printed organs are quickly becoming a possibility.


Conclusion

In this article, we have discussed how 3D printing has disrupted the medical device industry by enabling customization, rapid prototyping, cost reduction and biocompatibility of medical devices. We have also provided some examples of 3D printed medical devices that have improved patient outcomes, satisfaction and access to healthcare.

However, 3D printing is not without its challenges and limitations. Some of the issues that need to be addressed include regulation, quality control, ethics and sustainability of 3D printing in healthcare. Moreover, more research is needed to understand the full potential and impact of 3D printing on various medical fields and applications.

Nevertheless, 3D printing is a promising technology that has revolutionized the medical device industry and will continue to do so in the future. GlobalData states that 3D printing will be a $32 billion industry by 2025, rising to over $60 billion by 2030. Therefore, it is important for medical professionals, researchers, engineers and patients to stay updated on the latest developments and innovations in 3D printing and explore its benefits and opportunities for healthcare.

If you are interested in utilizing 3D printing in the medical device industry or learning more about it, we recommend visiting some of these websites:

If you have a design you would like to try printing in a biocompatible material, reach out to us! Our Biocompatible Accura Clearvue material is a great choice for medical parts.