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article imageRead how 3D printing can save your life

By Tim Sandle     Jun 30, 2017 in Science
Developments with 3D printing technology continue to advance and the technology is making strong inroads into the medical and biotechnology sectors. We take a look at three recent innovations.
The three innovations relate to discoveries in tumor identification in MS patients, open-source prosthetics and jaw replacement surgery. With each 3D printing can deliver precise measurements to medical production facilities saving time critical to patient prognosis. 3D printing (or additive manufacturing) is the process by which digital 3D design data is used to build up a component in layers by depositing material. One reason why 3D printing has become popular in the field of biomedicine is because it is an ideal technology for fabrication of parts in industries that typically do not operate in economies of scale, such as medical implants. Other applications include tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
Biomedical developments require careful planning, not least because many applications are medical devices designed to be placed into or onto the human body. Here shape, structure and mechanical properties are especially important. This has been achieved with the three recent innovations, each of which uses a MakerBot printer.
The first to be featured is with tumor Identification in Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients. This has come from UT Southwestern, where MakerBot printers have been used to treat MS patients by printing cranial composites of polylactic acid plastics that differentiate MS tumors from cancerous or false positives and thus improve accuracy of diagnosis. This allows neurologists turn to 3D printers to devise a mock-up of the brain to determine the physiology of effected areas.
The second example is with open-source prostheses. The company e-NABLE has crowd-sourced prosthetic production through an open-source design. With this, consumer-grade printers like MakerBot can produce a prosthetic of polylactide based plastics. These are durable and manufactured at a lower cost, with a typical appendage requiring just $50 of material.
The third case relates to jaw replacement surgery. Here Tufts Medical Center specialists have used MakerBot printers to create skull renderings made of plastics designed to the precise measurements of the jawbone. These are used for maxillofacial reconstruction.
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