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3D Printing in Healthcare

The medical industry is known to be most advanced in the way in which new treatments and methods have been developed, not to mention the technologies that drive all of this forward. There has been no shortage of miracles and that continues to happen.

One of the ways in which the medical industry has been improved and enhanced is through the use of 3D printers. 3D printing makes it possible for medical professionals to provide patients with a new form of treatment in a number of ways. 3D printing is used in healthcare for the development of new surgical cutting and drill guides, prosthetics as well as the creation of patient-specific replicas of bones, organs, and blood vessels.

Recent advances in 3D printing in healthcare have led to lighter, stronger and safer products, reduced lead times and lower costs. Custom parts can be tailored to each individual. This improves the understanding of patients by medical professionals and improves patient comfort level by allowing interaction with products that are designed specially for their anatomy.

Requirements of 3D printing in healthcare

Customization

The individualized nature of healthcare means that 3D printing is a perfect solution for the healthcare industry. As opposed to fabricate a large number of identical parts, 3D printing empowers the creation of prosthetic and orthotic devices custom fitted to a patient’s particular anatomy enhancing their adequacy.

Leadtime

Lead times to make tooling, regardless of whether in-house or outsourced, can be long and costly. 3D printing in healthcare provides designers and engineers the tools to rapidly make and iterate designs, communicate more effectively using realistic prototypes. An essential part of the success of any medical device is the feedback from doctors and patients and the speed these design improvements can be implemented at. The 3D printer is so accurate that the custom parts can be designed and sent to print in very little time. Within a matter of hours it is possible to iterate the design of a medical tool based on direct feedback from the surgeon who will use it and print a new model for assessment.

The fast feedback loop accelerates design development. Manufacturers can also use early 3D printed parts to support clinical trials or early commercialization while the final design is still being optimized. The time to print parts is often much faster when compared to traditional manufacturing methods, but there is still significant time required for the conversion of scan data to produce a printable file. So for more urgent trauma cases it is not an ideal solution.

Fingers holding a hearing device which is developed through 3D printing

Costs

Creating custom parts and devices requires a significant amount of detail. When the process is completed manually, there is a risk of human error and this could set projects back in terms of cost and time. However, 3D printing has enabled doctors to make several iterations before it is printed, helping them to identify any potential errors, ensuring that the final product is perfect. In addition to the capacity to make custom, complex parts, 3D printing in healthcare is most appropriate for low volume production meaning costs will drop while effectiveness increases. Costly tooling or machining processes are no longer needed. Also waste is reduced which further reduces the costs.

Sterilizability

Due to the application of some parts used in the medical industry, sterilizability is an important material property. 3D printing knows a lot of materials that are strong, lightweight and sterilizable with PEEK and Ultem being the most appropriate.

Complexity

Where before, conventional manufacturing may have struggled to create complex, organic shapes, the designs that 3D printers are now able to produce are potentially limitless. New composites and hybrid plastics make it possible to create bodyparts that have improved strength and are lightweight. Through selecting the correct materials and combining them with designs that are completely accurate and precise, the patients benefit from an enhanced quality, comfort and freedom.

3D printed baby skeleton object for healthcare

Common applications of 3D printing in healthcare

Learning and anatomical replicas

While the focus has been on 3D printing implants and medical devices used by patients, one of the largest areas of application is the fabrication of anatomical replicas. Doctors are currently utilizing models produced by 3D printing from patient scan data to enhance the diagnosis of illnesses, clarify treatment decisions, plan, and, in some cases, even practice chosen surgical interventions in advance of the actual treatments. The models enable doctors to understand patient anatomy that is difficult to visualize, especially when using minimally invasive techniques. Models also assist in precisely sizing medical devices. Doctors can also utilize the models to explain an upcoming medical procedure to patients and their families and to communicate the surgical steps to their colleagues.
To help reduce cost, some facilities have developed procedures where surgeons practice and plan operations on cheap mannequins that are transplanted with patient-specific 3D printed models. Surgeons can now obtain an even better understanding of precisely how a procedure needs to be performed right down to the touch and feel of the distinctive parts of a patient's anatomy. FDM printers are perfect for geometrically basic surgical models that don’t require a high level of detail or include intricate features.

Person showing a flexible 3D printed sole of a shoe

Surgical tools

Doctors use tools to assist in surgery. These were conventionally made of titanium or aluminium. With 3D printing doctors can create tools that accurately follow a patient's unique anatomy. 3D printed tools are used to make the placement of restorative treatments (screws, plates and implants) more precise, resulting in better postoperative results. The FDM 3D printing technology is ideal for iterative, low-cost prototyping to optimize the design of a tool.

Prosthetics

In the United States close to 200.000 amputations are performed each year. Replacement or alterations can be time consuming and expensive. Because prosthetics are such personal items, each one has to be custom-made or fit to the needs of the wearer. 3D printing changed all this and is now regularly being used to produce patient specific components of prosthetics that match perfectly with the user's anatomy.

Customized 3D printed prosthetics fit better because the design iterations can be made faster and easier

An arm with a 3D printed prothese
A 3D printed orthopedic solution for the arm
An arm with bio sensors on it

As one of our customers, Orto+ explains about the benefits of 3D printing: “The process before using Tractus3D printers was very long. Each iteration had to be handmade. Now, all can be printed at the same time and we can ensure consistent, reliable results. The level of detail is impeccable.” To create the orthopedic models, specialized technicians needed to undertake precise, demanding tasks. With 3D printing this is all done automatically and the process of customization is made easier. You can read here how 3D printing reduced the labor time of making orthopaedic products.

Employee of Orto+

"I was a real newbie and now I can't even imagine having none in my practice. My work just got so much easier and faster, it is really life changing for my patients."

- Alexandra Markovic, Orto+

Tractus3D industrial 3D printers for the healthcare industry

Most advanced  Competitively priced  You are always covered

While much attention has been focused on the consumer marketplace, consumer-grade 3D printers are not suitable for large-scale production grade 3D manufacturing. They do not have the speed, facilities or robustness which are critical for industrial manufacturing. Our industrial delta 3D printers are different. Do you want to 3D print large parts at once or produce a lot of small parts in one print session, Tractus3D printers make it possible. When you need light weight parts with similar properties as metal, our PEEK 3D printer can make it happen.

Create small and detailed parts

a FDM printing machine next to a desk

With a 3D printer on your desk you can easily create small parts and specialized tools yourself. It is far less complex than other machines, which means that you can produce more products in an efficient and simple way without the high costs. The 3D printers in our desk-series have a fast printing speed, a high accuracy and a low weight, making it easy to put on your desktop or move around.

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Create strong and lightweight parts

Man sitting behind his desk making a 3D model which he can send directly to his Industrial PEEK 3D printer for FFF 3D printing which is next to him

High-performance materials, like PEEK and ULTEM® (PEI) are stronger and more resistant than other thermoplastics, making them popular in a number of engineering applications. To 3D print such materials, you need a special printer that can handle very high temperatures. The T650-P is designed for 3D printing high performance thermoplastics, which are strong and durable for long-lasting parts.

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Create large parts up to 2,1 meters

Tractus3D big delta Industrial 3D printer 3D printing a big object

The ability to use 3D printing to enhance business operations, reduce costs and improve efficiency is exactly why a 3D printer has become a popular solution. If you’re looking for a way to produce detailed and big objects our large volume 3D printers are an excellent choice. They have a much larger build size than most other industrial 3D printers and can print objects fast at a high resolution.

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Do you have a question about 3D printing in healthcare? Don't hesitate to ask us!

Find out exactly how 3D printing can improve both clinical outcomes and the bottom line of your practice. 3D printing can positively affect many aspects of healthcare, including reduced procedure times and avoiding costly complications or mistakes. Our experts can tell you more about it so together we can discover how and where 3D printing can have a significant impact.

  • Patient-specific 3D printed models enable physicians to better plan, practice and determine optimal therapeutic approaches.
  • Improved surgical planning can reduce costs by avoiding complications, shortening operating time, accelerating patient recovery and reducing readmissions.
  • 3D printing enables hospitals to enhance their reputation as a leader in technology, and attract patients who want the personalized care a 3D printing institution can provide.

So please contact us so we can start discussing the many possibilities.

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