Innovations enabled by 3D printing are growing exponentially across multiple sectors. According to Sculpteo’s 4th annual State of 3D Printing survey, 70% of respondents increased their investments in 3D printing in 2017, versus 49% in 2016. As more investment flows into additive manufacturing technologies, the disruption will be felt strongly in healthcare, an industry with an immediate need for large amounts of differentiated materials, and sky high fixed costs.
Just this week, scientists have successfully 3D printed human corneas for the first time, and 3D printed prosthetics, including spinal and ankle implants, as well as patient-specific facial implants for corrective surgeries, are also beginning to make their way onto the market. Even the diversity of materials that 3D printers can work with, from titanium to sugar, is expanding its medicinal applications. Researchers at the University of Illinois have used isomalt – a sugar substitute derived from beets and commonly found in throat lozenges – to fortify organic scaffolds that will hold tissues in place as they mature into a full organ. And 3D printing in hospitals is becoming much more useful outside of the body as well, from printed medical models to complex software that allows medical professionals to plan and practice tricky surgeries before operating for real . . .