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November 2017
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Medical Applications

Partial

3D printing applications are having a growing impact in the medical field. Besides the applications in use, others are in the developmental stage. The printing of dental crowns is probably the most prevalent application. Another is the manufacture of prostheses and implants tailored to patients’ bodies. In the past, customized implants had to be handcrafted, but today, with the pairing of medical imaging technologies and additive manufacturing, the scale has tipped in favour of digital methods that produce perfectly customized designs in a very short time.

3D printing also plays a role in surgery. To prepare for a complex operation, such as the removal of a brain tumour, 3D printing can be used to reproduce a patient body part from medical imaging data. During surgery, guides, models, and tools adapted to patient morphology can improve the surgeon’s effectiveness. All major orthopaedic implant manufacturers employ these techniques and report that more than 50,000 patients a year undergo operations involving 3D models and customized surgical tools.

Other additive-manufacturing medical applications are still in the research stage. On the horizon is the printing of organs for transplant procedures, such as livers and kidneys, as well as living tissue and even food.