Additive manufacturing in the medical world

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Spinal implants, image credits: Arcam AB

Additive manufacturing can be of great value to the medical world, offering pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals techniques that enable them to provide customised care to patients.

Additive manufacturing offers significant added value to the medical industry. 3D printing technologies already change the way things are done today and offer interesting opportunities for the future, with 3D printed implants being just one example hereof.

3D printed implants

3D printing with titanium is already enabling to build better implants than ever before. Last year the first 3D printed titanium cranial implant was cleared by the FDA (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration). For this, Arcam AB’s Electron Beam Melting technology was used to create a light-weight plate with high tensile strength.

By using a titanium-tantalum powder, customised, patient-specific implants can be printed with improved stress absorption. This type of alloy is allegedly desirable because it is biocompatible and mechanically superior to titanium alone. More information on this topic can be found on the A*Star research website.

For polymers to be used in medical devices, they must of course also meet strict standards. The ‘medical grade’ however is not something that is harmonised in EU regulations. However, as a guideline, biocompatibility is regarded as an important feature that differentiates a ‘standard’ polymer from a ‘medical grade’ one.

Other applications of AM in the medical world

Meanwhile, 3D printing technology is providing surgeons with patient-specific 3D printed models, which can be beneficial for planning a surgical intervention. And 3D printing is used to create patient-specific surgical instruments, human cartilage cells (3D bioprinting), 3D bioprinted blood vessels, and exoskeletons, to name but a few applications of additive manufacturing in the medical world.

On November 13–16 medical professionals from all over the world will gather at Messe Düsseldorf, Germany, to attend COMPAMED / MEDICA 2017 where medical 3D printing will no doubt be a hot topic. The 3D fab+print team is looking forward to the event!