3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process of manufacturing objects without the use of molds, dies, or machining. Instead, it lays down successive layers of material under computer control by using 3D models.
In modern times, prototyping is being used massively in all industry segments. But the pace at which the world is moving forward, something faster and better is required. Technology and research is now being done to take 3-D printing beyond prototyping.
In the case of manufacturing at the tooling stage, 3-D printing will allow manufacturing lines to be started quickly and also operate them more efficiently. In the development of the injection mold tool itself, the 3-D printing resins are heat-resistant and durable enough to produce prototype molds that allow parts to be built with true production process and materials.
In this way, less wastage also occurs. It has also been found to reduce costs significantly, which can allow companies to become more competitive in their respective industries.
However, when considering 3-D printing, there are certain things which should be borne in mind in terms of the medical service sector. These are as follows:
Cleanliness, geometry, and biocompatibility
The geometrical features of the medical design must be controlled along with the biocompatibility and the cleanliness. This should not just be in the case of the raw materials, but for the finished device as well. Surgical devices and implants also require additional controls and regulations regarding biocompatibility which is beyond external contacting ones.
What can be learnt from the orthopedic sector
The orthopedic sector has witnessed some of the best implementations of 3-D printing, compared to all the other sectors. This is because they have to constantly research and upgrade their products and services in order to cure the world’s illnesses.
Orthopedic implants provide mechanical stability during the healing process as well as fixation. The goal is to allow the implants to assimilate themselves around the surrounding bone. Therefore, since good bone growth is important, it has led to the integration of different types of porous bone ingrowth coatings on the surfaces of implants.
Previously, there used to be different processes for machining, coating, and cleaning. Now, with the help of 3-D printing, the entire device can now be created with the bone in-growth surface with one fabrication process. The other steps can be easily eliminated.
With 3D printing, the implant devices can be tailored according to different patients’ needs. 3-D printing provides the medical service providers with this flexibility, however, one still needs to take into consideration the turnaround time or lead time to accurately achieve the geometry and fabricate it including all the process steps right up to the sterilization. Regardless of that, 3-D printing undoubtedly creates new opportunities for physicians, clinicians, and all others related to this.
In terms of products as well, other benefits include preparation tools like trials and fixtures. Ultimately, the improved clinical outcomes and improvements in the total procedure will help in reducing both components costs and a procedure which will help to justify benefits which are just theories now.