By Melissa Barnes, Associate Editor
3Dprinting has undoubtedly revolutionized the engineering world, and the medical industry is on the forefront of some of the most innovative applications to date. The technology
has proven itself a robust and versatile one, as
more companies are using it toward producing novel devices. However, unlike in other
industries, the technology has yet to attain a
true foothold in medtech. Since 3D printing is
still relatively new, it has yet to jump through
the standard medical hoops that any new
technology must. For this reason, much of
3D printing’s foundation currently lies in the
academic and experimental realm.
“This fundamental change in how surgical
tools, equipment, and implants can be made
has the potential to be significantly disruptive
to the industry,” says Fred Hamlin, Senior
Engineer in the Medical Technology division
at Cambridge Consultants.
Prosthetics and Casts
One of these industry shakers is the Osteoid, invented by Turkish industrial designer
3D Printing Is Revolutionizing
the Medical World as We Know It
Deniz Karasahin ( www.dkdesign.biz). The
Osteoid is ultimately a 3D-printed cast that
incorporates a low intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS), promoting bone fracture
healing in non-union breaks.
“The creator of the Osteoid is positioning
the device, once hooked up to ultrasound
for 20 minutes a day, to help reduce the time
it takes for the injury to heal by nearly 40
percent,” says Alex Chausovsky, Principal
Analyst at IHS Technology.
Since the product is still in its early stages
of implementation, the Osteoid has yet to
receive FDA approval.
“Many thousands of people suffer broken
bones every year, and this would not only
speed up the healing time of those injuries, but also significantly lower the cost of
treating them while making customers more
comfortable,” concludes Chausovsky.
One of the most heartwarming recent
uses of 3D printing is “Project Daniel” (www.
mdtmag.com/july1460), in which a company called Not Impossible Labs is producing
low-cost prosthetic limbs in Sudan for victims
ravaged by war. The company has done so
by using nothing more than consumer-grade
3D printers, making the prosthetic devices
cost-effective at a mere $100 per limb and
producing them in under six hours. Though
this also means the level of precision is
limited, it is a start, proving the widespread
accessibility of 3D printing.
This versatility is also apparent in such
applications as the Cortex Cast (
www.evill-design.com/cortex), which is a 3D-printed cast
with a honeycomb structure that uses nylon as
opposed to the traditional plaster, making the
casts innately waterproof and lightweight. The
inherent customizability of the devices makes
for the best possible outcome based on the
individual’s own unique anatomy.
Some of the most ambitious 3D-printed projects are already being implanted in patients.
Hasselt University in Belgium has used 3D
printing in creating a jaw implant from Xiloc
( www.mdtmag.com/july1461). The implant
was coated with a hydroxy-apatite bone
compound and specifically designed for the
patient. The procedure showed excellent
results, setting the bar for future procedures
of its kind.
3D-printed healthcare offers unparalleled patient-specificity, cost efficiency, and versatility.
The Osteoid combines a 3D-printed cast with
a low intensity pulsed ultrasound that helps
“Project Daniel” involves the company Not
Impossible Labs traveling to Sudan to create
3D-printed prosthetics for children who have
lost limbs due to the war.
The Cortex Cast relies on nylon as the fabrica-
tion material, which makes it waterproof and
lightweight by nature.
Dental/jaw implants are being created with 3D
printer technology that can be customized for