Additive Manufacturing has become the most popular topic since the invention of the pacemaker. The invention has since transformed and is now used in designing various products. Manufacturers of medical devices are now able to utilize 3D printing to make medical products. Engineers can manufacture parts from metal, silicon, plastic, ceramics, and much more. This technology usually “prints” tangible products from a computer file by placing layers of materials one on top of the other instead of beginning with a solid base material that to be cut and molded into an object. It enables organizations to effectively produce more complex designs and structures that would have traditionally been hard to make.
This technology has made it easy to create medical devices, implants, tools, and instruments that can be used and reused in a surgical environment. Metallic parts are made from stainless steels, titanium, aluminum and cobalt chrome using laser-based printers. They also use metal in powder form as the raw material. Plastic parts are made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. They are also made from polylactic acid using infrared or ultraviolet light together with laser energy. Currently, new materials which are stronger, more flexible, and chemical resistance are being experimented.
Uses in Medical Engineering
Engineers in the medical industry use this technology to manufacture customized products and devices that will meet the needs of individual patients. These products include but not limited to, hearing aids, surgical tools, prosthesis, orthopedic implants, fixtures, and anatomical models.
Uses in Dentistry
In the dental industry, Additive Manufacturing has demand in applications such as dentures and orthodontic aligners. Scans from a patient’s dental formula can create several 3D objects. Orthodontists and surgeons can use them in planning and executing various procedures. This demand is expected to rise in the near future.
Other Uses in the Medical Field
Large medical facilities, centers, and hospitals, which have the financial capacity have also embraced the technology. They are into creating inhouse objects and devices. These include experimental valves for the heart, bone implants for clinical studies, and other surgical tools. There are cost savings since less material is used, less time taken, and wastage is low.
The flexibility of this technology also allows manufacturers and medical practitioners to rethink about how to design and make parts. This makes it possible to produce parts that are stronger to perform intended functions. Hence there is freedom in design and innovativeness. Additive Manufacturing has opened possibilities of producing prototype molds that make it possible for designers and engineers to see the end product without much investment. If the design needs to be changed, there is freedom to redesign at no extra cost.
Additive Manufacturing has made tremendous contributions in Med device industry. The technology has made what seemed impossible in the last decades now more than a reality. With prototyping and simulation, medical devices can be carefully examined and tested before the final device is produced and implanted in patients. It has also reduced development costs, saved time, and saved patients’ lives.