Created by ABHINAV SINGH©️ on 6 March, 2020

At a rapidly growing rate, the medical industry continues to recognise the added value of additive manufacturing (AM or 3D Printing) for a vast range of medical applications. AM is now used in the development of new surgical cutting and drill guides, orthopedic implants, and prosthetics as well as the creation of patient-specific replicas of bones, organs, and blood vessels.

A study in 2015 revealed that 13% of all 3D printing revenue comes from companies who are linked to the medical industry. More than 20 different implants ranging from cranial implants to hip, knee, and spinal implants approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are produced with various AM technologies. Furthermore, to date, more than 100,000 acetabular (hip cup) implants have been produced via AM with approximately 50,000 of them implanted into patients.

All of these milestones continue to reinforce the important role AM now plays in the medical industry where custom products tailored to each individual can be manufactured. This improves medical professionals understanding of patients (see Surgical learning tools) and improves patient comfort level by allowing interaction with products that are designed specially for their anatomy.

This article will discuss the requirements within the medical industry that make AM an ideally suited technology for many applications and present the most common methods of data generation for the production of 3D medical models. Common medical industry applications will also be discussed along with the limitations and restrictions AM must overcome to further impact this industry. Finally, a series of case studies that have made use of AM in the medical industry will be presented.