How 3D Printing is Changing Healthcare

Technology has moved forward leaps and bounds in recent years, making the world around us more accessible. Artificial Intelligence chatbots, virtual reality (VR) devices, and even food delivery robots were unheard of a decade ago, but the healthcare industry stands to gain so much from these innovations in the coming years. In this article, we’ll be talking about one specific type of technology and how it benefits the healthcare industry, the 3D printers.

3D printers create three-dimensional objects through a layering technique that makes use of whatever raw material is loaded into it. It could be metals, plastics, or ceramics. One reason 3D printing has been able to transform healthcare is through the rapid advancement of the hardware that helps create 3D designs. Advanced Protel PCB software allows designers to create accurate 3D objects and get them printed instantly. What would have taken days to build manually can now be acquired in a matter of minutes. This is especially useful in an industry in charge of saving lives, where time is of the essence.

3D printing is also a more cost-effective option. It’s much cheaper to invest in the necessary raw materials than to acquire store-bought products, which are, often, more expensive. With the presence of 3D printers, healthcare professionals can work more efficiently. Any tool they might need can easily be acquired with the press of a button. Following are some of the examples for reference:

1. Prosthetics

It can take up to $1,000 to make a prosthetic hand traditionally, but a 3D-printed prosthetic hand can be created for as little as $50. Additionally, creating a traditional prostheses can take weeks in a laboratory, while making use of a 3D printer will produce one in a matter of days.

At its current state, 3D-printed prostheses cannot replace traditionally made ones in terms of durability. However, there has been so much progress in this regard. This AZO Materials article documents the history of 3D-printed prosthetics and how much they have evolved in the past few years. 3D printing has helped make functional prostheses that are both comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.

2. Replacement Organs

A heart transplant costs around $1.4 million. Even if a patient had the funds to pay for the procedure, they would be put on a waiting list, joining over 100,000 other patients. It could take years for the patient’s procedure to take place, as the global shortage makes it difficult for doctors to find a suitable organ replacement.

Unfortunately, the use of 3D-printed replacement organs hasn’t been done in the healthcare industry yet, but researchers are making great strides in making it a reality. Should they arrive at a breakthrough in the coming years, it will be so beneficial for those in need of organ transplants.

3. Surgical Instruments

On an average, a set of surgical instruments costs around $3,000. An Academic OB/GYN blog post details that this contributes to why healthcare in the United States is so expensive. Sourcing tools that are expensive and single-use contributes to the steep fees.

Luckily, using a 3D printer is cheaper — no more than a couple hundred for a set. It also makes the tools open to modification. Surgeons can change the way a tool looks, depending on their needs, before having them printed.

Hopefully, with the continued improvement of 3D printing, the healthcare industry can become more efficient in its internal processes — be it in terms of time or cost.

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