3D printing is a brand new and modern fabrication process for a wide range of materials. Such materials can be used for the production of practically anything from medical implants to parts of an aircraft wing.
In the medical implants scene, Digital Healthcare makes 3D scan-to-parts that might soon become a simple routine. This approach to healthcare is based on medical scanning & imaging technologies (CT, MRI, and ultrasound) and seems to offer affordable and highly effective solutions for the medical industry.
What medical end-user applications have already been succesfully 3D printed, so far?
- Generic items (hips, knees, shoulder implants,and implants accessories)
- Unique bespoke items (hearing aids, dental stones, shoe insoles, prosthetics and orthopedic implants)
- Patterns (used for fabricating dental crowns or dental aligners)
Many of the medical sectors have adopted the 3D printed elements as part of the technological revolution that the 3D technology is bringing. Some of the main advantages of this way of production technique is that it does not require multi-steps production operations or any additional tooling and that it minimizes the need for having an inventory. Hence the reduced costs and lead times. These advantages are higly appreciated for small volumes and complex parts products, such as orthopedicones.
The successful implementation of these production method for Metal 3D Printing for medical implants could be revolutionary due to the following advantages:
1) Easily available biocompatible metal powders
Surgical implants need to generate expected responses from neighboring cells and tissues. Cell behavior (adhesion, functional alteration, morphological changes, and proliferation) is strongly affected by yhe surgical implants’ surface properties. Surface topography, surface chemistry, and surface energy influence decissevly the biological response to an implanted device.
The well controlled 3D prining atmosphere (neutral gases and restricted oxygen) guarantees the high purity of the3D printed parts and preserves the materials’ properties.
2) Cheaper metal implants
Next to traditional manufacturing, the 3D printing of implants is a flexible process. The capital required to achieve a certain scope is reduced, enabling individual customization. Customized products provide superior comfort that leads to a faster recovery. Failure risks are much reduced, just like surgical time and overall costs, overall.
3) Better mechanical properties
Compared to traditional manufacturing techniques, such as casting, the 3D printing process creates unique microstructures. Refined grains are obtained due to the rapid heat extraction in the process. For this reason, the patient’s discomfort decreases, without sacrificing the possibility for freeform and complex near-net shapes.
In conclusion, well tailored medical devices lead to fewer downside effects and sucessfull patient recovery. The new applications and quality improvements are surely yet to come. 3D printing is about to reshape current supply chains for numerous orthopedic implants, minimizing high-costs and long lead-times.