Browsing articles from "April, 2015"
Apr 8, 2015

3D-Printing could save your life

Medicine has been around for thousands of years, and has had many leaps forward.  Shining moments which change the way we treat injuries and illnesses- the Hippocratic method,  immunisation, anaesthetics, antiseptics, vaccinations, transplant technology.  The next big leap is just around the corner, and has already started making an impact on the way we can treat patients.

3D-printing has been in use since the 1980s, but it is only recently that we have been able to print parts with the necessary levels of detail and endurance to consider them for medical use.  The potential is endless, with scientists predicting that it will be possible to print functional organs which can be transplanted to replace damaged or dying parts.  An Italian studio known as MHOX have been working on 3D-printed eyes which could replace or potentially be used to enhance regular human sight with features like zoom, photography, and of course WiFi.  This may sound like science fiction, but they believe the technology will be readily available by 2027.

With all this to look forward to it’s easy to miss the developments that are being made today.  Using titanium it is possible to create skeletal structures that can be placed within the human body.  A man in Wales had his face rebuilt using titanium after he was injured in a bike accident.  A team in Southampton created a replacement hip, and the dentistry industry have been using it to create caps and crowns for teeth faster and more cost effectively.

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Last month, we covered a segment on 3D printed prosthetics involving Robert Downey Jr. and a group known as Limbitless Solutions.  Prosthetics is an industry that is being revolutionised due to the huge cost reductions 3D-printing technology brings.  While an arm would cost upwards of £25,000 before, they can now be made for as little as £200.  This makes the technology far more accessible and will hopefully spur even greater developments.

The medical industry is always developing, always looking for new ways to help and to heal- 3D printing will be one of the ‘big leaps’ of the 21st century.   Due to the unique nature of each person and their medical requirements, it is likely that the field will be suited to low volume production, and due to the strict standards set for the materials used the bar is set very high in terms of the equipment and expertise required.