The Future of Additive Manufacturing

Most of you have probably already heard about additive manufacturing, or 3D printing. But what you may not know is just how much of an effect this burgeoning industry could have on the medical sector. In this blog we want to tell you all about where additive manufacturing is headed and how it could fundamentally change the medical field.

America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, recently awarded over $19 million in funding to a number of additive manufacturing projects. There are projects that seek to improve manufacturing in a few different industries, like the aerospace and metalworking sectors, along with a few projects that could have a huge impact on medicine.

One project that was particularly interesting was an initiative that was looking for a way to use additive manufacturing to turn magnesium and iron-based alloys into biomedical devices, according to this article. This project, if successful, could lead to a world where doctors would simply be able to “print” out bone plates, scaffolds, tracheal stents, and other devices for patients in need. Other researchers have developed 3D-printed implantable devices with embedded sensors, as seen in Medical Design Briefs, that will allow better connections to a patient’s heart in order to detect cardiac disorders. Another project we have heard about aims to develop software that can accurately print designs based on cell structures.

Between these advancements, we could soon be living in a future where patients with a wide array of medical needs and their doctors will frequently find themselves turning to 3D printers. What’s clear is that additive manufacturing projects like this could revolutionize the way we study, diagnose, and cure medical ailments.