Additive manufacturing: Reshaping 3D printing healthcare

Benefits of innovative technology hold great promise for medical science and could lead industry to greater heights


Anand Prakasam, Country Manager- EOS INDIA

As the manufacturing industry continues to expand, the creation of prototypes as a means to illustrate potential product design is slowly gaining prominence. Additive manufacturing is the technology that helps create physical copies of these designs to illustrate them better. Not only this, the evolution of this technology also allows for printing to move beyond prototypes and produce the final products too.

This form of manufacturing involves utilising 3D digital data to construct a component in the form of successive layers. The materials used in additive manufacturing can range from metal to plastic, providing the process with the flexibility required to be an essential component of the contemporary manufacturing space. Among the many spaces that this technology has come to influence, healthcare represents one of the top sectors of interest especially for its evolution from standardised equipment to components that are customised to patient-specific needs.

Medical procedures today have evolved to become highly specialised, leading to the need for equipment that can perform the same. In such a situation, the components used in these procedures become one-off, unique requirements that traditional modes of equipment manufacture may not be able to cater to due to the excessive cost of production for limited profits. Additive manufacturing fills this gap by providing the healthcare industry with customised surgical instruments and medical devices using faster, more flexible and more cost-effective development and production methods. Some of the areas where additive manufacturing has made the greatest strides are:

Dental Products
In the dental industry, the use of additive manufacturing to create copings and dental bridges is very common. Labs today scan the impressions taken from the patients. Based on this data, the copings can be manufactured using the appropriate metal to fit comfortably within the dental gaps created by missing teeth. This technology also allows for the accurate design and production of partial dentures as well, thereby eliminating any errors that may occur during the casting process due to irregularities in the moulds used. The digitisation of dental labs across the world is the biggest driver of this technology to be used effectively for all dental related concerns across the country.

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