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3D printing is a revolutionary technology that up until recently has been more of an idea. Sure there has been forms of 3D printing since the 1990's but it hasn't been until the last 10 years that the technology has truly been explored. 3D printing is a process by which a digital model is used to make a physical 3 dimensional object. The 90's showed us that toys and models could be made out of plastics and other popular manufacturing materials but the 2000's showed us that 3D printing could be used in the medical field. The way 3D printing works is it uses a Computer Aided Design file that uses a 3D modeling program such as AC3D. You can also use a 3D scanner to create models. When the file is processing in the program the software itself actually cuts hundreds of thousands horizontal layers. Once this is done the file is uploaded to the printer where the printer prints object layer by layer. As you can imagine this is a very intricate process and its incredible how this technology works.
With 3D printing being a multi-billion dollar technology the limits of what it can be used for are virtually nonexistent.
Bioprinting is a very new concept that is truly groundbreaking. By using human stem cells scientist are able to use 3D printers to create working organs. Though the technology is in its very early stages only being used on lab rats the thought that one day humans could one day have an organ printed from their own cells rather than wait on a list for a new organ. One facet of bio printing that is being used to day is in the prosthetic market. 3D printers are being used to make a realistic bone material. By doing such it is possible to have a prosthetic that is as close to the original limb as possible. The 3D printed bones could also be used in place of metal rods which are inserted in place of bones when bones become too shattered to repair. The options are endless. The final bioprinting technology that I will touch on is 3D printed tissue and cartilage. Those who have lost an ear or nose in some kind of accident can now have a completely new ear made out of their human stem cells in a as close to real tissue as possible. Skin graphs may also be a thing of the past before too long and be replaced by this synthetic tissue.
Other Medical Uses
3D printing can be used in less life altering applications as well. By scanning a patients injured wrist a computer can generate a 3 dimensional model of a cast and then "print" it out to custom fit the patient.These new casts are made of a light but sturdy polymer that is breathable and can get wet without any problems, thus eliminating the smelly and itchy side effects of traditional casts. The same can be done about other medical tools. For example, the future can hold custom crutches or custom boots for those with foot injuries. Like previously stated, the options are limitless. Another medical use is the application of 3D printing is creating human tissue. Now this aspect of the 3D printing still has its kinks but scientists have printed artificial meat tissue and also have printed bits of a liver tissue, but this use of 3D printing is still in the process and hopefully one day it will be more of a possibility.
This a very important application that 3D printing has been able to help with. Since joint replacements are pretty common it makes sense that 3D printing is becoming a new and effective approach to not only manufacturing joints more quickly but they can also make them accommodate the patient more. What that means is with the 3D technology a doctor can make a joint replacement cater to the patients needs opposed to having a generic joint that is used for everyone.
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