The Critical Application of 3D Printing in the Medical and Non-Medical Fields

Topics: 3D Printing

Two-dimensional printing techniques produced x-ray and other images from magnetic resonance and computed tomography scans that were used by doctors to comprehend various pathologies. However, since the early 2000s, 3D printing has gained broad applications in both the medical and non-medical fields. In the medical field, 3D printing lets three dimensional transcriptions to be executed as physical entities with the help of a printer. As a result, 3D printing in the medical field has application in cardiac, spinal and maxillofacial surgery and orthopedics as some of the major areas where it is embraced (Tack et.

al, 2016). The surgical field is one of the primary areas of medicine that utilizes 3D printing mostly. First of all, the technology is used by surgeons to create surgical guides, especially in orthopedic, dental, spinal and maxillofacial surgeries (Tack, 2016).

The physical objects obtained from the 3D printers act as appropriate simulation models that are used during the operations. An example of 3D printing is during mandibular reconstruction in maxillofacial surgery where the 3D models have increased usage.

The 3D surgical guides are advantageous to the doctors since they significantly reduce the time spent in the operation rooms. Further, they also improve surgical outcome for cranial, dental and spinal surgeries irrespective of the surgeon’s experience. The cost effectiveness of 3D printing the surgical guides is not yet fully determined. However, the method is cheaper when applied in complex cases than in typical cases where it is quite costly (Tack, 2016). Another critical application of 3D printing is in developing readymade and custom implants.

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Readymade implants are sold commercially to patients who need them, but some need custom-made prostheses that are unique to their conditions. 3D printing has provided new insight into the treatment opportunities among patients outside the standard commercial implants. Biodegradable polymer polycaprolactone and ceramic hydroxyapatite are some of the materials used in the 3D printing of customized implants to replace hard tissues.

On the other hand, medical grade silicon substances are used to create implants that replace the soft tissue. The customized implants produced by 3D printing reduce the amount of time spent in the theaters significantly. Angiogenesis and bone formation improvements are some of the advantages observed with the usage of customized implants. Cranial implants that are customized are accurate and exhibit superior clinical outcome to the readymade implants. 3D printing has improved the approach to training and education in the medical field (Mitsouras, 2015). In the past, aspiring doctors and surgeons were taught using human cadavers. The cadavers do not provide sufficient knowledge on various diseases and also give limited experience on surgery. Indirect experience obtained from observing ongoing operations also offers limited experience on the compound disease-specific and pathological facts mainly in surgeries that use endoscopy.

3D printing produces 3D models that are unique to a patient enabling young surgeons to achieve adequate training in areas such as bone and biliary drainage surgery without fear of the improved patient rights or social disapprovals of cutting open the body of a human being. Some of the phantoms produced for practice by students include skin, bone and tumor 3D models and also multi-material neurosurgical prototypes with a particular pathological unit (Mitsouras, 2015). The 3D models enable medical students to get enough experience before performing a real operation thus improving the quality of healthcare given to the patients. Another are in the medical field that embraces 3D printing is neurosurgery (Baskaran, 2016). 3D printing technologies such as Material and Binder Jetting and powder bed fusion is used to create cerebrovascular models that are beneficial in surgical planning, training, and simulation. When a printer produces a pattern that has different colors for the blood vessels and the skull, anatomic relationships are highlighted, and it improves the accuracy of obtaining intraoperative findings (Baskaran, 2016).

3D printing is also used in bioprinting where the technology is used to combine biomaterials, cells and growth factors to manufacture biomedical parts that outstandingly show the characteristics of the natural tissue (Li, 2016). Bioprinting has enabled the printing of partial to fully viable tissue and also the incorporation of electronic devices into living tissues as a way of creating bionic organs. Other applications of 3D printing include musculoskeletal, thorax and cardiovascular surgeries. 3D printing has several advantages making it beneficial to the medical field. First of all, the amount of time spent in the operation room is significantly reduced thus helping in improving the quality of healthcare (Tack, 2016). Further, education and training of medical students and young surgeons has also improved due to the models produced by 3D printing printers.

The accuracy obtained from surgical guides printed from 3D printers help improve the clinical outcomes especially in customized implants and maxillofacial surgery. 3D printing also reduces the amount of exposure to ionizing radiations significantly (Tack, 2016). The prostheses that are produced by 3D printers are affordable hence making the technology cost effective since cheaper 3D printers have been created over time. However, financial investment and the physical space require to establish a 3D printing department is a huge challenge for many institutions. In conclusion, 3D printing in the medical field should undergo further improvements to ensure patients continue receiving quality healthcare.


  1. Baskaran, V., Štrkalj, G., Štrkalj, M., & Di Ieva, A. (2016).
  2. Current Applications and Future Perspectives of the Use of 3D Printing in Anatomical Training and Neurosurgery. Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, 10, 69. Li, J., Chen, M., Fan, X., & Zhou, H. (2016).
  3. Recent advances in bioprinting techniques: approaches, applications, and prospects. Journal of Translational Medicine, 14, 271. Mitsouras, D., Liacouras, P., Imanzadeh, A., Giannopoulos, A. A., Cai, T., Kumamaru, K. K.,
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  5. Tack, P., Victor, J., Gemmel, P., & Annemans, L. (2016). 3D-printing techniques in a medical setting: a systematic literature review. BioMedical Engineering OnLine, 15, 115.

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The Critical Application of 3D Printing in the Medical and Non-Medical Fields. (2022, Mar 07). Retrieved from

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