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3D Printing in Healthcare


Medical 3D printing is fast becoming the largest application in the 3D printing sphere. This article about 3D printing in healthcare will give those in the early stages of investigating medical 3D printing an overview of the topic, and it will also support individuals who want to broaden their understanding of the multifaceted world of 3D printing. This combines key information from a range of industry sources and links to informative and interesting articles.

What Is 3D Printing?

3D printing (also referred to as additive manufacturing) is the method of creating physical objects from a digital file by adding multiple layers of a material, or multiple materials to build a single structure. The structure is based on the input of a computer-aided design file, in a format compatible with the 3D printing hardware. The technology’s origins can be traced back to as early as 1983 when it was first invented by Chuck Hull, co-founder of 3D Systems. Since then this concept has evolved to include 15 methods or technologies of combining these layers, all commonly referred to as 3D printing.

3D printing is particularly suited to the medical industry due to the research-based, innovative and fast-moving nature of the field.

The use of 3D printing in medicine has been publicized since the early 1990s and in recent years, there has been a huge rise in the number of applications emerging in the field as a result of the technology becoming more accessible to users.

With major growth in precision and personalized medicine, there is a strong demand for bespoke and patient-specific medical applications, tailored exactly to an individual or their anatomy.

3D printing often wholly or partially drives production of these custom-made products and devices.

Examples of actual and potential uses of 3D printing in medicine include:

  • Customized prosthetics and implants

  • Anatomical models for surgical planning and education

  • Pharmaceutical research including drug dosage forms and discovery

  • Tissue and organ fabrication

  • Personalized medical products and equipment

More details about how 3D printing is used in healthcare can be found in this article.

3D Printing in Healthcare: Market Growth

3D printing offers ample opportunities in the healthcare industry and as such, the market for 3D printing in the healthcare industry is growing rapidly.

A market research published by Research and Markets predicts the year-on-year growth of 3D printing will be in double digits due to the high demand from North America and Europe, coupled with the rise in awareness about these devices in developing countries.

The 3D printing in healthcare market was valued at $1,036.58 million in 2020, and is projected to reach $5,846.74 million by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 20.10% from 2021 to 2030.

The healthcare sector is expected to be the fastest growing segment of the 3D printing market as innovations are integrated into specialisms such as orthopedics and implants.

3D Printing in Healthcare: Regulations

As there are continual advancements within 3D printing, regulatory requirements change at a rapid pace.

Some organizations exist to advise on regulation, beyond just the scope of 3D printing, to assist in technical standardizing and aid product safety and quality including the world-leading International Standards Organization (ISO).

Specifically for 3D printing (Additive Manufacturing Standards), the ISO and ASTM International (The American Society for Testing and Materials) have collaborated and developed the Additive Manufacturing Development Structure (AMDS), which aims to provide technical standards across the board.

Additionally, the FDA released ‘leapfrog guidance’ on its initial thinking and recommendations for Technical Considerations for Additive Manufactured Medical Devices.

This guidance outlines that manufacturers should also engage with the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) or CBER through the pre-submission process to obtain more detailed feedback for additively manufactured medical devices.

The FDA defines a medical device as: “An instrument, apparatus, implement, machine, contrivance, implant, in vitro reagent, or other similar or related article, including a component part, or accessory which is intended for use in the diagnosis of a disease or other conditions, or in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of a disease.”

Patient-Specific Medical 3D Models by Axial3D

At Axial3D, our goal is to make patient-specific surgery routine. This is made possible with our medical 3D visualizations and printed models. We convert 2D patient scans using our Segmentation-as-a-Service software and print them in our in-house print lab, through partners, or we can also provide printable files that can be output into a print lab in a hospital. Learn more about our 3D printing solutions here.

Up Next: The Use of 3D Printing in Healthcare.