Six ways 3D printing will transform healthcare

Wednesday, December 4, 2019


3D printing has a range of medical applications that make it a critical enabler of the personalized healthcare revolution. In the Global Innovation Index 2019, Dassault Systèmes’ Claire Biot, Patrick Johnson, Sébastien Massart, and Nicolas Pécuchet identify six ways that 3D printing technology is changing medicine.


This article is part of a series about the power of innovation to solve social and economic challenges. Stories and statistics are drawn from the Global Innovation Index 2019.


An additive manufacturing technology that is set to transform many areas of medicine, 3D printing has captured the public imagination, with a survey indicating that 71% of citizens believe that on-demand 3D-printed organs will directly impact their health.


From what’s possible now, to future applications, here are six ways that 3D printing is changing the way doctors treat illness and injury.


1. Prosthetics and implanted medical devices

3D printing is already being used to make prosthetics and dental and orthopedic implants, enabling items to be precisely tailored to patients’ anatomies.


2. Pre-surgical anatomical models

Helping surgeons plan and prepare for complex, difficult surgeries, 3D-printed anatomical models – usually based on MRI images – enable physicians to understand a patient’s unique anatomy, which can result in better surgical outcomes.


3. Custom surgical tools manufacture

Another current, surgical application for 3D printing technology is in the design and fabrication of bespoke surgical instruments. Advantages compared to traditional manufacturing methods include cost benefits, faster lead-times and one-off modifications to suit individual patients and surgeons.


4. Bio-printed skin

3D bio-printers that use nanotechnology can already print live, skin-based organs within hours, with powerful potential for skincare applications.


5. New organs

In this potentially game-changing future application, the same technology that is used to print skin could one day – perhaps as soon as 2030 – be mature enough to produce an entire organ. This could eliminate the need for transplants, transplant waiting lists and anti-rejection drugs.


6. Printing pharmaceuticals

Again, it’s possible that by 2030, 3D printing technology will be sufficiently advanced to print prescription drugs. This application could reduce drug supply costs, and give access to high-quality medicines to patients in developing countries – advancing health equity.


The GLOBAL INNOVATION INDEX 2019 is the result of a collaboration between Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as co-publishers, and their Knowledge Partners, Confederation of Indian Industry, Dassault Systèmes, SEBRAE, Brazilian Micro and Small Industry Support Services, and Brazilian Confederation of Industry.


Published under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-ND 4.0) licence. That means you can copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format for any purpose, even commercially, but you cannot change it in any way.


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