The use of 3D printing is growing in all sectors. From bridges to food, printing processes that create virtually anything from tiny droplets of “ink” offers a wide range of benefits. Those benefits include everything from sustainability to efficiency. And, the pharmaceutical world is not immune to this new trend. In fact, there are many ways that 3D printing will change the pharmaceutical industry.
How 3D Printing is Changing the Pharmaceutical Industry
Though many people are just learning about 3D technology, it isn’t all that new. It’s been around for numerous years, though has been used almost exclusively in the manufacturing sector. The printing, which is scientifically known as stereolithography, creates three dimensional objects through the process of fusing materials. It does this a single layer at a time and allows for the creation of very precise, sophisticated, and intricate designs that are customized to fit an individual’s specific needs.
It’s clear that this type of flexibility and customization can be valuable. Industry experts believe 3D technology will create new opportunities for research as well as biotechnology applications. It could help to develop cures, boost efficiency in delivery, and it may even allow for more precise and custom-made dosing. The technology really does open the doors to a wide range of paths.
Drug Dosing Customization
Perhaps one of the easiest to see ways 3D tech will influence the industry is through the creation of personalized doses of medications. In short, a 3D printed tablet is designed very precisely for the patient – It’s been a long-time battle for many in the industry since patients respond to the same medications very differently. 3D printing technologies would allow a doctor to create an individual form based on many factors.
Also possible is the consolidation of numerous medications into a single dose. For example, since 3D technology allows for layering of products, it could create complex layers that deliver a combination of medications at one time. This could translate into providing individuals with a single pill for all of their ailments.
Printing Living Tissue
Perhaps one of the most interesting and most in demand solution for 3D printing is that of printing living tissues. Imagine being able to replace not only valves, but the entire heart with a new three-dimensional one printed using the DNA structure of the individual. Some experts believe this type of technology is only a few decades away. Organ printing is still a long way off, but printing skin, for example may happen sooner than many realize.
Complex Drug Profiles
Another key way the pharmaceutical industry could see a change is in the creation of complex drug release profiles. This process would allow for the personalized creation of medications that release at various – very intricately designed – intervals. Because the use of binders into powders can be more carefully controlled, more overall flexibility is present in creating timed-release medications.
What Else is the Future Going to Offer?
In March of 2016 the FDA approved the first 3D printed medication. The medication, Levetiracetam, treats epilepsy. The fact that we are already seeing FDA approval for the product is a good sign for this technology moving forward. In the future, we’ll likely see more custom drugs and formulations. We’ll likely see more products designed for patients to use more fittingly – from braces that are custom fitted to prosthetics and more. It’s important to note that scientists are still working on ways to use 3D technology within the industry.