If Marty McFly was impressed with the self-tying shoes when he visited 2015, he would’ve been blown away knowing that we’re able to print pretty much anything we desire in 2020.
3D printing has transformed the modern world. Anyone with enough spare change in their pocket and a bit of time on their hands can get involved in 3D printing. From duct tape dispenser to dolphin keychains, the only limit is your imagination!
While 3D printing has typically been used for novelty purposes, we are increasingly seeing this technology being used to revolutionise medical practices. We’ve rounded up just a few of our favourite examples:
When three biochemical engineering students in Argentina decided to build their own 3D printer, they recognised the enormous potential in surgical planning. Their start-up, Mirai3D, uses 3D printing to create patient-specific 3D printed models1. The models are especially beneficial for intricate procedures that require multi-speciality surgeons, as the prints are able to be sterilised and brought into the operating theatre for visual reference and practice before the surgery2. By being able to pre-plan surgeries in greater depth, surgical teams can use operating room time more efficiently, saving money and improving patient care.
3D printing has also been invaluable during the COVID crisis. The global shortage of PPE has led many independent businesses and 3D printer owners to collaborate together to create equipment for front-line workers. The possibilities of applications of 3D printing in COVID-19 are limitless, with uses including ventilator valves, respirators, nasopharyngeal (NP) swabs and mask connectors. In some circumstances, isolation wards have also been 3D printed for use as emergency dwellings in extreme circumstances3.
In April 2020, Word Monster joined UK efforts to make protective visors for medical staff, using our very own 3D printers. We were able to create over 600 visors, which were distributed to those who needed them the most.
As the nature of 3D printing is so versatile, it’s able to address the imbalances in supply-demand chains caused by socio-economic trends and disruptions in supply chains. As a result, it’s able to provide safety equipment to those who do not have immediate access.
Bespoke prosthesis can cost thousands, whereas a 3D-printed counterpart can be made for as little as £50. There are hundreds of free, editable designs available online, meaning anyone with access to a 3D printer and a DIY mentality can create a unique prosthetic as a low cost4. Open Bionics are a prosthetics company that develop affordable and assistive devices to turn children with limb differences into bionic heroes, making science fiction a reality. They’ve recently paired up with Disney to develop a range of Hero Arm covers, including designs from the Stars Wars, Marvel and Frozen universes.1 The Hero Arm is the world’s most affordable bionic arm, with multi-grip functionality and empowering aesthetics. These incredible prosthetics turn limb differences into a superpower, utilising the magic of 3D printing.
The benefits of 3D printing cannot be overlooked. It’s able to help advance medical practices, save medical resources and ultimately improve the lives of both patients and practitioners. We hope to see this technology and its uses become more accessible and available around the world in years to come.
- Mirai3D: revolutionising medical practices with 3D printing. Available here: https://www.mosaicmfg.com/blogs/stories/mirai3d?utm_source=Mosaic+Manufacturing+General+Update+List&utm_campaign=adaa37cd1d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_03_12_04_17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4962b8e8ab-adaa37cd1d-517040869&goal=0_4962b8e8ab-adaa37cd1d-517040869&mc_cid=adaa37cd1d&mc_eid=619f31c85b. Accessed January 2021.
- Surgical planning with patient-specific 3D-printed medical models. Available here: https://www.3dmednet.com/surgical-planning-with-patient-specific-3d-printed-medical-models/. Accessed January 2021.
- The global rise of 3D printing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Available here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41578-020-00234-3. Accessed January 2021.
- 3D Printed Prosthetics – Where we are today. Available here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41578-020-00234-3. Accessed January 2021.
- OpenBionics – Our Story. Available here: https://openbionics.com/about/. Accessed January 2021.