Additive manufacturing, otherwise known as 3D printing, was first developed during the 1980s – a method of building layer upon layer of body to create solid objects and used for Rapid prototyping. Although it is a very old method, over the years it had evolved highly and is used in an array of materials and fields from thermoplastics, pure metals, ceramics and many kinds of food to engineering, manufacturing, art and medicine. Currently 3D printing is mostly being used as end-use manufacturing technology but combining it with synthetic biology and nanotechnology it has the possibility to thoroughly develop production, logistics and designs in numerous sectors.
3D Printing in the Medical Sector:
University Medical Center Utrecht of Netherland is well known for its 3D bio printing for successfully implanting a rabbit shoulder using 3D printers. The Medical Center Utrecht’s Tissue factory is to be applauded for this achievement and by joining forces with the Hogeschool Utrecht and the ProtoSpace Foundation and forming Utrecht3DMedical they are looking to push boundaries with 3D printing and rapid prototyping by creating human organs ready for transplant. Being the first Dutch 3D printing lab Utrecht3DMedical is more than enthusiastic and overly committed to 3D bio printing for the betterment of patients.
Transplants and Prosthetics:
Transplants and prosthetics play a big role in the medical sector and they are also hard to come across. Patients usually have to wait too long before a donor shows up by which time more damages are done to their existing conditions. By using artificial materials and biomedical materials such as collagen, gelatin and many more, new organs are created using the 3D printer to be implanted into patients. The advantages of these are that patients now do not have to wait for ages until they find a suitable donor and can get prosthetics or transplants almost instantly. UMC Utrecht performed a skull transplant two years back and gave the patient a custom-fitted carbon fiber skull which turned out to be convenient for the patient and successful for the doctors.
Present day progress has made it possible to combine 3D printing and regeneration of biocompatible materials, cells and other components to produce complex 3D functional living tissue. In contrast to non-biological printing, 3D bio printing has challenges such as choosing the right materials, types of cells, differentiation factors and many other complexities that are connected to living tissue regeneration and growth.
These challenges require addressing from fields of engineering, cell biology, physics and medicine. And even though it has already been used to generate and transplant different tissues, multilayered skin, bones and vascular grafts, heart tissues, tracheal splints and cartilaginous structures, more complex transplants require more attention to the development of the machineries and more in depth research. drug discovery and toxicology.
Although 3D printing is a popular domestic method, the medical industries are hardly using it as much. Director Do Blankenstijn, faculty of Nature and Engineering of the Hogeschool Utrecht says that even though all respective associations have vast experience with rapid prototyping, by working together they can bring about changes and create international shifts and evolve the 3D printing industry for good. Even more, he believes joining forces will help them achieve efficiency from already existing innovations of the 3D printing market. From converting scans to printable files, working with patient specific models and implants the efficiency of rapid prototyping is increasing drastically. It is being heavily used to prepare doctors for surgeries. Furthermore, it has reduced the number of CT scans hence highly reducing the openness of surgical procedures. Consequently this is the right time to take more steps towards improving and increasing the use of 3D printers.
While UMC Utrecht continues to focus on providing biomedical expertise The Hogeschool Utrecht technical college will be handling the engineering section. ProtoSpace on the other hand has beforehand experience with 3D printing. Once upon a time, they had started off with objects such as vases. Today, however, they are progressing towards developing prosthetics.
The final question is – when can we expect fully working 3D printed organs? Depending on technology, methodical inventions and financial means it can take from some years to maybe even a few decades to come by. Despite the fact that rapid prototyping works fine with plastic, metals and other objects, the key is to make it work alongside the human body. Matching tissues and getting them to abide by the human body rules and regulations is not an easy task. Getting the human body cells to accept these organs is another story altogether. 3D printing industries are trying to engage with business partners and investors to increase their fund and hopefully with the correct technology and research make it acceptable for the human body in the near future.
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