Even by 21st century standards, 3D printers are pretty futuristic. Pair them with a computer and a fertile imagination, and you can literally craft all sorts of objects from scratch: toys, cars, musical instruments and even clothes. And judging from the products below, medical professionals haven’t missed the technology’s huge potential. Here are 5 ways medical 3D printing is making a splash now or in the near future.
1. Downloadable Medicine
Buying medicine from the drug store can be a real pain, especially for bedridden people who live alone. However, that could change in the near future if Glasgow University’s Lee Cronin succeeds in crafting a working chemputer. (As of this writing, the machine is still in the prototype stage.
The chemputer uses a blueprint and chemical ink to produce medicine from scratch. If you have these two materials (which you can buy from online drugstores using a digital prescription), all you have to do is put them into your chemputer for instant medicine.
2. 3D-Printed Prosthetic Limbs
Traditionally-made prosthetic limbs can be insanely expensive. Also, they take a long time to make. There’s always a risk of damage to the original molds – not to mention the body – every time they’re replaced.
It’s great feat that 3D-printed prosthetic limbs were created. Even without the help of trained technicians, they can be manufactured quickly for patients like the 5,000 amputees from Uganda. Considering that 30 million people in the world need prosthetics, this breakthrough is a godsend.
3. On-the-Spot Manufactured Medical Equipment
In Haiti, finger splints, casts and umbilical cord clamps are being printed on demand. Also, companies are turning to 3D printers to produce hearing aids and dental devices, which are otherwise expensive and not covered by insurance.
Imagine the possibilities. You could arrive at your doctor’s or specialist’s office, pay for blueprints and print your hearing aid or glasses at home. Medical expenses could be much lower than they are now.
4. Patient-Specific Surgery Aids
You don’t need to be a surgeon to imagine the challenges that come with the career. Surgeries take hours because the process is intricate, and they need to be extremely careful. One wrong move could be fatal.
Fortunately, the trial-and-error method of surgery will soon go the way of the dinosaurs. Doctors can now print models of organs, ranging from life-sized hearts to tiny optic nerves, and use them to practice surgical procedures, thereby speeding up the real procedures.
5. Quick Organ Transplants
More and more medical breakthroughs are occurring because of medical 3D printing. If this continues, inexpensive treatments for previously fatal conditions could become a reality.
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