3D printing has been around for a while, but the medical applications of this technology are still in its infancy. Its development is creating endless possibilities for various healthcare applications and it is creating a framework for improving access to care. There is a growing debate about its sustainability and creating new opportunities in the medical device supply chain mainly in emerging countries and resource-poor communities in established countries. Many healthcare providers across the world are exploring the various options for embracing 3D printing technology.
As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, the costs are rising inexorably, delivery of health care services are mainly impacted. 3D printing is cost-effective which is critical when compared to traditional manufacturing technologies. This is because the process of additive manufacturing enables items to be assembled directly from a digital model, increasing precision and removing room for error. In addition, the ability to manufacture smaller customizable quantities helps to make the industry attractive to the medical sector.
A report by Transparency Market Research, the business analysts, forecasts growth of around 18 percent a year in the global 3D medical devices market to reach $3.5 billion by 2025. The global 3D printing medical device market was valued at US$823.0 million in 2016 and is anticipated to expand at a CAGR of 17.7% from 2017 to 2025. The healthcare industry, from manufacturers of medical devices to big Pharma, is now focusing on strategic thinking to embrace 3D printing technologies. 3D printing is already making a profound difference in the realm of prosthetics. In the previous traditional manufacturing era, it was time-consuming and labour intensive to create custom prosthetic devices for patients recovering from a stroke or amputation following trauma. 3D printing allows medical professionals to create personalized, lightweight orthotics that fit a patient perfectly, adjusting them later on as needed during the recovery process. Healthcare ventures are also now printing fully functioning, more flexible prosthetic limbs at a fraction of the cost. Some can even be generated in less than a day.
This can also positively impact patient outcomes, as it’s often important for patients to begin moving their bodies and working with the prosthetic device as soon as possible to ensure a range of motion and a thorough and faster recovery. This is helpful in emerging countries wherein the burden of the daily loss of optimum living is high on families due to lack of social support.
While this innovative technology is taking off, there are still some concerns about the ethical issues involving 3D Print Technology.