Biomedical 3D Printing & the Future of Medicine

Monday, May 7, 2018

Biomedical 3D Printing & the Future of Medicine

Do you ever wonder if organ replacement may one day be as easy as hitting the print button?

In the future, medical imaging and biomedical 3D printing will potentially transform our medical possibilities: from custom prosthetics to reconstructive surgery to medical education and synthetic body parts for educational purposes.

Let’s examine the role of radiology, prosthetic limbs, and organ replacement in relation to biomedical 3D printing.

Radiology & 3D Printing

According to the University of Cincinnati, 3D printed models of patients’ bodily areas of operation can save time for surgeons and assistants working in operating rooms in need of accurate representations of internal organs and anatomical dimensions. However, because the production +

3D Printing & Prosthetics

3D printing technology currently in use now holds the possibility of creating inexpensive limbs — for example, it recently cost a Nepalese man as little as $30 for a prosthetic hand, according to The future of 3D prosthetics, however, may lie in the potential ability for anyone to design and print a prosthetic limb themselves, without having to rely on ordering theirs from a company or having it designed for them by someone who has the freedom to charge whatever they choose. That’s what 3D printer technician Mike Campos is hoping, at least.

Campos recently designed a prosthetic hand for his son, who was born without his right hand. Now, a year after reaching out to a 3D printing lab, he is running operations for Claws from Carter, a chapter of e-NABLE. They have managed to print, assemble, and deliver 25 helper hands to children from all parts of the globe, free of charge. Furthermore, the total cost of each device is close to $100 — impressive considering that traditional prosthetic limbs can cost anywhere from $3,500 to $50,000!

3D Printing & Organ Replacement

Currently, if you’re in need of a kidney transplant, the average wait time comes to a whopping 944 days — or more than two and a half years, according to The Guardian. As you might imagine, however, bioprinting requires more complicated “ink” than that provided by conventional blue, black, or color cartridges. As it is essentially trying to mimic the chemical composition of living tissue, cleanliness and sterility are of the utmost importance.

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Unfortunately, organ replacement doesn’t look like it will have the same affordable price tag as prosthetic limbs, as the cost of bioprinting is much more expensive due to the difficulty of recreating an actual organ — which isn’t slated to come to fruition until around decade or two from now. However, skin and cartilage are much closer to being realized on a larger scale.

One company, Cellink, is making three different 3D bioprinters priced from £7,600 to £29,900 — that’s $10,331 to $40,769. The latest bioprinters allow users to print cells and tissues — suitable for small scale experimentation and test samples for research use.

For now, 3D models of patients’ body parts — such as the case of Bentley Yoder’s infant skull that allowed surgeons to better understand reconstructive possibilities — are the most common use for 3D printers in the medical realm. Silicon also holds possibility for kidney replacements. However, scientists and researchers are working on ways to develop the technology further for organ replacement purposes, as well as related bio-medical research.

What do you hope will be developed fastest, in terms of accessible use of 3D printers for biomedical purposes? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

By  Devin Morrissey

Devin writes from Daly City, CA, and spends his weekends coaching rugby and collecting records. He writes on anything and everything, aiming to become an expert in both.