Revolutionizing MedTech: 3D Printing Is No Gimmick

By July 23, 2013No Comments

3D printing is fuelling a new industrial revolution. The beginnings of desktop 3D printing were humble, but it’s growing at an exponential rate. Consider where we were six months ago and where we are today. We certainly aren’t limited to single input materials anymore.

For those not convinced about the potential of this technology, consider these use-cases in medical technology:

3D printing your cast

Jake Evill, a young design student from New Zealand, has used 3D printing to invent an exoskeleton that "protect[s] the internal skeleton". Basically, he is reinventing traditional plaster.

Evill is 3D printing a cast, called the Cortex:

“The Cortex exoskeletal cast provides a highly technical and trauma zone localized support system that is fully ventilated, super light, shower friendly, hygienic, recyclable and stylish.”

The advantages seem fairly obvious. The disadvantages? Well there is a downside: costs, but that is only an initial factor. As technology develops and becomes ubiquitous, price decreases dramatically.

The point is that nowadays, inventions like these don’t necessarily spawn from huge research labs backed by billion dollar companies. Today, we have the tools and information needed at our fingertips for individuals to do these things.

Bioprinting human tissue

Still not convinced? Consider Organovo, a company specializing in bioprinting. More precisely, they bioprint human tissue – functional human tissue based on 3D bioprinting technology that Gabor Forgacs discovered at the University of Missouri. You will soon be hearing a lot more about Gabor and his venture.

“Ultimately the goal would be a new kidney, a new liver,… derived from a patient’s own cells. Tissue on demand is the ultimate long term vision of the company,”explains Eric David, Chief Strategy Officer of Organovo.

The first and last third of the video are truly stunning – in terms of vision but more importantly in terms of what is possible. To say the least, organ donation and drug research will soon be disrupted.

Opportunities like these emerge because technologies like 3D printing are being democratized; as this technology becomes personal and ubiquitous, it is used in entirely new ways. People will, and already are, using 3D printing to solve problems in a way we never imagined possible.

We are empowering people with new tools, a new technology that is easy to use. "And that’s the change," Chris Anderson says. "If it’s easy to use, […] it becomes a vector for ideas to turn into things, to turn into companies,… to turn into movements.

"And that Macintosh moment is right now."

Video and image courtesy of Organovo and Jake Evill.