How 3D printing is picking up the steam in Healthcare

How 3D printing is picking up the steam in Healthcare


The three-dimensional printing or 3D printing has its roots placed way back in 1983. When Chuck Hall, the inventor of 3D printing, came up with a unique idea of printing a mere eyewash cup. Little did he know that his idea of printing an object into a 3-dimensional item is going to be a billion-dollar blueprint of changing people’s lives?

Just like in any other industry, 3D printing also belligerently infused in the healthcare sector. From printing cells to making custom-based prosthesis to delivering patients’ personalized medicines, 3D printing has changed the way surgeries work and result!

To begin with, a 3D printer was mainly used to create anatomical models of the human body. These models were used in various fields of medical teaching and training areas by physicians and surgeons. Earlier, all a 3D printed model was used for was to explain the patients about a procedure or lesions while making the new medical practitioners acquainted with various procedures. But, with the changing time, the three-dimensional technology has also made its place in the healthcare industry. How? - By successfully creating custom-made prosthetics, tissues, and organs, etc. while pushing hospitals and healthcare organizations to the next big step of revolution. 

For a tool that is yet to reach many healthcare premises, 3D printing is making significant changes while being a cost-effective alternative. As stated in a recent report by Allied Market research, 3D printing technology in the healthcare market will reach a new height of $2.3 billion by 2020.

Answering the Hows

After hearing the idea of an organ printed artificially, the question arises in the first instance is that how does 3D printing contribute to patient safety?  Are there any evident changes in the field of medicine with the advent of 3D printing? And more importantly, how does a 3D printer work in hospitals? The answers collectively subsist in the healthcare industry’s core system, i.e. medical imaging.

A 3D model, for medical utilization, is created by using Additive Manufacturing (AM) together with Computer-aided Design or CAD. These designs are formed through scanned images employing X-ray, Computed Tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan, or through an ultrasound. The digital images so formed are then translated into a physical model by a three-dimensional printer for further medical applications.

The model printed requires digital imaging as a first step, which can be provided by either CAD software or volumetric images via CT scan or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). 3D printed implants or prosthetics have improved patient care by evolving the techniques into an inexpensive and economic innovation changing the face of surgeries and non-invasive practices.

And in order to make these procedures more safe and reliable, the technology has even expanded towards fabricated bones, tissues, muscles creating a vascular network in hospitals. But the stark reality of it all is that there have been countless near-miss cases in hospitals where patient safety was at an alarming risk due to unaccountable errors in diagnosis and medical practices.

Without being over-engineered, the budding printing technology is filling numerous downsides of medical practices and procedures resulting in increased patient safety and security.

How 3D printing is changing your medical practice with each passing year? 

Even though the additive manufacturing technology is relatively new in the healthcare industry and is still not available to many far-out hospitals, yet it has swiftly entered the many ends of the industry. The additive process of creating layer by layer an anatomical model has advanced patient care and significantly diminished adverse results. Among the many revolutions by 3D printing, the below enlisted are majorly changing the future of medicine.

1. The way in of bio-printed tissues and organs

3D bioprinting, an additive manufacturing based technology has paved the way for evolution by creating cost-effective tissue engineering, regeneration medicine, and drug testing techniques. This technology uses bio-inks, a substance assortment of the hydrogel, together with human cells, and extracellular matrices (ECM), to print out the live tissues using 3D printing technology. The constructed tissues and organoids are often used for medical research or any human organ transplant.

2. 3D prosthesis and implants – Saving Time, Money and Visits

Prosthesis and implants, in general, were quite an expensive visit to hospitals. Traditionally, an amputee had to wait for months to receive his expensive but durable prosthetic. Therefore, when 3D printed implants and prosthetics reached the healthcare market, it created a wave of affordable, custom-made, and time-saving alternatives.

The 3D prosthetics are more personalized such that they can be made according to a particular need of a specific patient. These implants have succeeded in improving the cost and time of manufacturing, number of visits to a hospital, and durability.

The number of patient visits has also decreased substantially as 3D printed models and images effectively assist the doctors in analyzing the surgery beforehand through various angles.

3. Diminishing patient trauma and error

The appropriate use of the additive technology is that it has mitigated patient trauma and increased positive surgery outcome in a complicated surgery.  Doctors use these 3D printed replicas or models of the original organs and practice the scheduled surgery to detect and future error which increases the chances of successful operations. Due to the acceptable use of technology, the rate of near misses and unaccountable cases has also declined.

With the increasing use of the 3D printer in surgeries and diagnosis, the ratio of patient safety has increased tremendously. In this regard, the FDA has introduced necessary workshops, essential documents, and publication of various imperative issues concerning the application of 3D printing.

4. Revolutionizing the dental industry

The dental industry is making the most use of additive manufacturing today. From the creation of 3D printed LED braces to dental implants to the making of an accustomed mold of mouth, the technology has impacted the dental industry with innovations more than any other sector by digitalizing the workflow and making the processing time and cost effective.

Creating one’s own set of 3D printed aligners is more economical than buying a traditional set of aligners. The revolution has reached the extent where one can create their own set of customized aligners by merely owning a 3D printer.

5. Get your customization medicines and drugs

In 2015, the FDA approved the first 3D printed pill, Spritam (levetiracetam), which is designed to just dissolve in the mouth. The pill has improved for patients are who are not medically allowed to swallow one.  Just as this, many medicines are on their way to be customized according to the suitable requirement of a particular patient.

Innovation and digitalization in the healthcare sector have found its way through various medium but additive manufacturing or 3D printing is undeniably the next step to advance patient care and medical practice.

6. Reduction in human error

 The infusion of technology automatically reduces the percentage of human error in the system. And, with 3D printing in place, hospitals have evidently seen a drastic reduction in human errors in the medical practice or diagnosis by the practitioners. Hospitals are now moving towards the method of electronic input of the patient data instead of hand-written information.  According to much-talked-about research by Johns Hopkins, medical error is the third most stated reason for deaths in hospitals causing more than 250,000 deaths per year.

7. Minimized cost from $5000 to $50

With the reduction in the time-span of the process, the revolutionary technology has also minimalized the cost of making a prosthetic by a considerable difference. A 3D printed prosthesis can cost as low as $50 thanks to the latest e-NABLE technology which is competing with the roof-top price of $50,000 a prosthetic.

The additive technology has made it easier and reasonable for the patients in need to afford a prosthetic or an implant when needed. With the continuous changes and updates in the technology, 3D printing is gradually entering the premises of every hospital by being as accessible as it can be.


At SymposiumGo, you can find various such topics and essential changes in the world of healthcare through our informative and much-talked-about Live as well as Recorded webinars. With multifold speakers, our webinars prove to be a stepping stone with their up to date sessions and discussions to help you take the next big step in your professional practice.