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Additive Manufacturing and Medical Technology

The medical technology industry has been at the forefront among the users of additive manufacturing. This is largely attributed to the fact that Additive Manufacturing capabilities align well with the industry’s medical device segment.

Here’s a look at how the industry benefits from additive manufacturing technology.


Personalization

The most significant benefit that Additive Manufacturing delivers to the medical technology industry is the freedom to create customized medical products. For instance, the use of additive manufacturing to custom-make implants and prosthetics can deliver great value to both the patient and the physician.

Likewise, the technology can be used to generate custom fixtures and jigs for use in the surgery rooms. Namely, custom fixtures, implants, and surgical equipment can be highly beneficial in terms of time needed for a surgical procedure, patient recovery time, as well as the success of the operation.

It’s also expected that additive manufacturing will, in the near future, allow for customization of drug dosage and dispensing for each patient.


Improved Cost Effectiveness

Another great advantage offered by additive manufacturing is the ability to produce medical products cheaply. Whereas subtractive manufacturing techniques remain cost-efficient for large-scale productions, the cost of additive manufacturing is becoming increasingly competitive for small-scale productions. This largely applies to small-sized standard prosthetics or implants, like the ones used for dental, craniofacial, or spinal complications.

The cost of custom-making an object through additive manufacturing is low, with the first object being as less expensive as the last. This greatly benefits companies with low production volumes or those that make products that need to be modified frequently. This technology can also lower manufacturing costs by minimizing the utilization of resources that aren’t really necessary.


Improved Efficiency

To begin with, you should know that “Fast” in additive manufacturing means that an object can be created in a couple of hours. That makes this technology quite faster when compared to the traditional techniques of manufacturing medical products. The traditional manufacturing techniques usually involve milling, forging, as well as a considerably long delivery time.

Besides the speed, there are several other aspects of additive manufacturing that are improving. They include:

Precision

The resolution

Dependability

Repeatability of the technology


Democratization and Association

Another benefit of additive manufacturing that can’t go unmentioned is the democratization of the design as well as manufacturing of products. A wide selection of materials is becoming available for use in additive manufacturing. Moreover, the cost of these materials is becoming increasingly less expensive. Consequently, individuals, including those in the medical industry, are able to utilize more than a 3D printing machine and their creativity to design and create innovative items for both commercial and personal purposes.

Likewise, the nature of additive manufacturing data files provides a great opportunity for sharing between professionals. Instead of trying to generate parameters that are spelled out in scientific write-ups, you can easily access downloadable .stl files, which are normally found in open-source databases. Then, with the help of a 3D printing machine, you can produce an exact model of a medical product, and this allows for accurate sharing of designs.

To promote the sharing of additive manufacturing data files for medical-related designs, custom laboratory equipment, as well as models of protein, bacteria, and viruses, on open-source platforms, the National Institutes of Health started the 3D Print Exchange in 2014.


Final Thoughts

Medical technology is a division of health technology, which encompasses products that diagnose, monitor, and treat human ailments. Additive manufacturing has made substantial contributions in this field, thanks to the strong alignment of its capabilities with needs of the medical technology device segment. WITHIN is among the leading companies in the development of additive manufacturing applications for the medical industry.

3D Printing Trends to Watch

3D Printing technology has been in existence since the 1980s in various forms. However, as the technology advances, the application of 3D printing is increasing far beyond rapid prototyping. According to industry experts and trendsetters in the world of 3D printing, we should expect these 3D Printing trends to significantly contribute to the growth of the industry:


Advanced 3D Printers

In the coming years, 3D printing machines will become more powerful, with increased speeds and better printing capabilities. In fact, there are some advanced 3D printing machines available on the market already, some of which can print very fine details (50 microns) at a commendable speed.


New 3D Printing Materials

You should expect new 3D printing materials to emerge. While we already have metal 3D Printing such as gold, steel, and titanium, there’s a possibility that we will witness more development in the use of organic materials for printing organs and skin. Another fascinating development to watch is Multi-material 3D printing.



Easier 3D Modelling

3D modelling is still a major stumbling block for most people. You should expect this to change in the near future. Currently, a good number of 3D modelling programs just pay no attention to the 3D printing community.

Most of the programs are designed for graphic designers and animators. As such, it can be very difficult to make these models printable. Fortunately, an increasing number of easy-to-use apps and plugins are being built. This is attributed to the fact that many 3D designers are now creating models with 3D printing in mind. In fact, leading companies like Windows are also investing in the development of 3D printing design solutions.


Premium Quality Finishing

As the constrictions of desktop 3D printing machines are becoming more obvious, more attention is being paid to the object’s finish quality. In that light, you should expect a rise in the demand for sophisticated finishing and complex colours.

In the past, enhancing the finishing of a 3D print to a desirable level was not only time consuming, but also challenging. However, with continued advancements in terms of accuracy, speed, and applications, the attention is likely to shift to the ability of 3D printing companies to deliver quality finishing.


More Industries Embrace 3D printing

With the increasing viability of 3D Printing technology, more industries are recognizing the significance of the technology. For instance, the fashion industry is making use of 3D Printing to test and increase the possibilities in the modern world of design.

Nonetheless, it should not be forgotten that it’s the medical device industry that has consistently grown in leaps and bounds in regard to 3 printing technology. In fact, in the coming years, we should expect to see development and increased use of:

3D printed invisible braces

3D printed dentures

Scanning technology for dentures


Conclusion

It will take some time for 3D technology to reach its maximum potential as there is still a lot to be discovered and developed. We expect to see more powerful and fascinating applications in the world of 3D printing. You can learn more about 3D Printing applications at WITHIN.