The Current and the Future 3D Printing in Medicine


Advancement in 3D printing techniques and methods is enabling patients’ treatments to be highly customized and more efficient.3D printing makes use of the digital file in producing an object in entirely any shape through an additive process, which lays layers of materials successively. Application of 3D printing in medicine has been on the increase, and it is expected that the health care industry will be revolutionized by this application (Klein, Yi and Michael 233). The application of 3D printing run across various fields such as in organ and tissue fabrication, in anatomical models, implants, pharmaceutical research on the forms of drug dosage and in creating prosthetics that are customized. The paper will examine the current and future of 3D printing in medicine specifically on 3D printing of cells and organs.

Benefits of 3D Printing in Medicine

Applying 3D printing in the field of medicine provides some benefits that include personalization and customization of medical drugs, equipment, and products. Another benefit is cost effectiveness, the increase in productivity, enhanced coordination and democratization of manufacturing and design (Klein, Yi and Michael 235). Despite these benefits, caution should be taken, as notable regulatory and scientific challenges loom large and there is the need that technology be given more time to involve. The major advantage of 3D printing in medicine is offering freedom in production of customized medical equipment and products. An instance here is that 3D printing has customized implants and prosthetics providing value to the physicians and the patients. It has increasingly saved the time required in making medical operations such as in surgery and the success of the implants.

3D printing has also increased cost efficiency. It can produce items more cheaply specifically for a small production run. Most traditional manufacturing techniques and methods remain effective to the production process that is of large scale (Oliker 46).  The 3D printing has however become more effective for the small-scale production of items. This is true for those standards implants that include spinal, dental or craniofacial disorders. 3D printing is, therefore, advantageous to companies that produce low volumes of products, parts that tend to be highly complex, or those that require regular modifications. In addition, 3D printing enhances productivity (Oliker 46). A product can be made much easily band faster. 3D printing is also increasing in accuracy, resolution, reliability and repeatability (Yoo et al. 3). Another advantage is that 3D printing entails democratization of the manufacturing and design of products. Increased revolution in 3D printing is on a rise and as such, novel products are being produced.

Current Trends

Bio-printing works through the harvesting of human cells by scientists from biopsies and stem. After the harvesting of the cells, they are left to multiply in containers such as the petri dish. The biological ink, which is in a mixture form, is fed into the 3D printer (Yoo et al. 4). Besides, the design of the 3D printer is in such a way that it arranges the various types of cells and materials in a three-shaped dimension. The belief of the physicians is that the 3-D printed body cells will have to integrate with tissues. On the same note, physicians have been successful with the process in the past. For instance, in 2015 a girl aged two years from Illinois who had been born without a trachea got a windpipe that had been made from her stem cells (Yoo et al. 5). This technology is also receiving paramount support from governments in many countries across the globe. The American government, for instance, has been funding universities to continue researching in this area. In additional to receiving support from the governments, certain foundations are also extending support in this area. A Virginia Foundation for instance which has been offering support for regenerative medicine has provided an award worth $1million for any organization that would print a liver that is fully functioning.

This technology has been used since the year 2000 when it was used to make custom prosthetics and dental implants (Klein, Yi and Michael 233). From that time, this technology has been evolving rapidly and in the recent past 3D has been used to produce ears, jaw bones, exoskeletons, eyeglasses, stem cells, vascular networks, organs, tissues, cell culture and blood vessels. The failure of an organ or tissue due to age, accidents, defects in birth and diseases has been a critical issue in medicine (Yoo et al. 7). The current treatment for tissue and organ depends mostly on transplants of organs from both deceased donors and living. Nevertheless, hospitals have experienced severe shortages in the number of human organs that are available for transplant. Organ transplant is costly and follows up are becoming expensive. Moreover, it is hard to find donors who have tissues that match that of the patient (Oliker 47). However, the issue is likely to be avoided if cells are obtained from the body of the patient and used as a replacement organ. The advantage of this approach is that it would reduce instances whereby a tissue is rejected.

Despite the fact that 3D printing is in its infancy, it offers significant advantages that are beyond those provided by the traditional regenerative techniques that provide only the scaffold support. 3D printing technology has enhanced organ printing in the production of cells, cell based biomaterials and biomaterial in line or individually, layer-by-layer to create 3D tissue-like organs or structures. Regarding the hearing aid, 3D printing has had an effective transformation impact. For instance, approximately 99% of the operations that entail hearing aids are because of the 3D printing technology (Klein, Yi and Michael 236). Since each ear canal of an individual is shaped in a different manner, the use of the advanced technology has allowed the production of customized devices in an efficient manner. The future of 3D trend gives more hope in that as it evolves many benefits will be underscored in the field of medicine especially in the field of tissues and organ transplant.

Future Trends

There are expectations that 3D will play a critical role in personalized medicine through the use of customized nutritional organs, drugs, and products. 3D printing is especially expected to be common in the pharmacy set-ups. The most effective application of 3D printing is the bio-printing of those organs that are complex (Yoo et al. 3). Research estimates that the world is behind by at least 20 years before we could think of obtaining a printable heart that are fully functioning (Rybicki 1). As 3D printing technology evolves, there is the promise of the reality of getting printed organs such as the vascular networks. The approach would be significant because it would make way for the production of live implants in addition to organs and tissue models that could be used in discovering drugs (Rybicki 1). Moreover, it would be possible to print tissues and utilize them to test and determine the most effective medication.

In addition, according to researchers, the future of 3D printing will entails using stem cells from teeth of children and uses them as toolkits when developing and growing replacement organs and tissues. Another trend that researchers and doctors expect involves printing where living organs or the implants are being printed in the body of the patient during the operation. By using 3D bio-printing, growth factors, biomaterial scaffolding, and cells may be used in repairing lessons of different thickness and types with a digital control that is concise.3D printing for repairing organs such as skin, which are external organs, has already taken place (Rybicki 1). In a certain case, doctors used 3D printing to fill lesion on skin with the keratinocytes and fibroblast on the distinct areas of the wound of the patient (Ventola 705). Fortunately, the process is likely to advance in repairing those organs that are partially damaged, malfunctioning or diseased. Evolution in surgery that is robot-assisted and robotic 3D printers may be an important aspect in the advancement of this technology. Consequently, 3D printing holds great promise in the field of medicine (Ventola 707).


3D printing is a potentially transformative and useful tool in medicine. Its application is on the increase, and the field of medicine is potentially reaping the benefits that emanate from this application. Research, however, is trying to improve the medical applications that use the high quality 3D printing technology. Moreover, medicine has had exciting and significant advances in the 3D printing application. However, the most revolutionary applications that include organ printing need more time to involve. There is the need for more advanced 3D printing to effectively enable the printing of organs and tissues. This calls for more research from the various sectors.


Works Cited

Klein, Geraldine T., Yi Lu, and Michael Y. Wang. “3D printing and neurosurgery—ready for prime time?” World Neurosurgery 80.3 (2013): 233-235.

Oliker, Aaron. “3D Printing: revolutionizing medicine.” Americas Quarterly 9.2 (2015): 46-47.

Rybicki, Frank J. “3D Printing in Medicine: an introductory message from the Editor-in-Chief.” 3D Printing in Medicine 1.1 (2015): 1-1.

Ventola, C. Lee. “Medical applications for 3D printing: current and projected uses.” Pharmacy and Therapeutics 39.10 (2014): 704-711.

Yoo, Shi-Joon, et al. “3D printing in medicine of congenital heart diseases.” 3D Printing in Medicine 2.1 (2015): 1-12.



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