3D Printing in healthcare - the future

Ep.2 – digitising standards in meditech… is the future 3D?

Natasha Szombara, Account Manager of Meditech at FMC Global Talent.
Natasha Szombara, Senior Account Manager of FMC Meditech.

3D printing is said to be a technological marvel with a wide array of applications… and let’s be honest it’s smashing it in industries across the board. The healthcare market in particular is beginning to revolutionise products and care for patients with the use of 3D printers.

First class not standard class darling
Patients who get to use 3D printed wound care products are able to have their wounds easily monitored, are less likely to need their wounds re-dressing and they’ll experience increased protection for the skin from infections. Not just that, 3D printers can also be customised, making the whole experience more comfortable and also increasing the speed of recovery (customisable casts allow bones to heal 40% to 80% faster than traditional casts)!

Of course one downside would be that 3D printing is currently more costly than traditional methods, but many argue that this cost is excusable because the efficiency balances out the expense.

Full steam ahead
I have no doubt that 3D printing will continue to penetrate the healthcare market, but what does the future hold? From what I hear this is what’s next…

More, more, more
3D printing will of course be used for more purposes including…

    • Organs –  As we speak, scientists somewhere are testing bio-printed livers! They believe within a decade we could be making 3D printed organs such as hearts, livers and kidneys.
    • Implants – Biodegradable implants are also being created with the hope that they’ll help with the fight against cancer and even cure bone cancers.
    • Skin – Actual 3D printed skin is beginning to be created. ‘Human plasma-based bilayered skin’ is the skin substitute containing both dermal and epidermal components… just like real skin. Crazy stuff but absolutely wonderful for treating skin issues and especially burn victims.
    • Bones – Cranial bones and ear cartilage to name a few could be created with this technology – it is believed this would be a massive time saver.
    • Artificial limbs – These are starting to be used in war zones already… changing the whole process of how fake limbs are created and the experience for the user.

Knowledge is power
Through 3D printing, researchers will be able to discover more. For example, scientists are going to begin creating versions of different cancer tumours so they can better understand them. This research will allow quicker diagnoses when it comes to patients and also a speedier road to some cures!

Superior collaboration
In order for 3D printing solutions to work for real people, they need to be user friendly. To really take things to this next step we should see integrations of information technology, stem technology and 3D printing with traditional wound healing products, alongside advances in sensors. This requires cross industry expertise, and I expect partnerships or collaborations between wound care developers and complementary technology developers will come to produce the easy to use ranges.

Superior, simpler but will they use it?
I expect, like with anything, that there will always be a period of adjustment for clinicians, doctors and nurses using these new 3D printed solutions. Educating staff will go a long way in accelerating the adoption of these technologies, but also key to success is purchasing from a manufacturer that has kept up with the innovations along the way.

What do you think will happen in the 3D printing and healthcare space?

Read the previous blog from this series “Ep.1 – scanning in another dimension… the future?” here.

If you’re interested in working in the meditech space, you can send me your CV here.