It wasn’t too long ago that 3D printing was seen as a novelty, or a technology that would involve such prohibitive expenses that it would never see adoption on an extensive scale. But that has certainly changed.
Today, 3D printing is considered one of the most rapidly growing and developing technologies in the world, and that is thanks in part to the rapid entry of 3D in prosthetics development and other medical fields.
Let’s take a look at the influence 3D printing is having on medicine and why it has been such an ideal technology to use specifically in the development of prosthetic devices.
All about 3D printing
With 3D printing, providers are able to develop very complex designs both faster and cheaper than they have ever been able to do before. Custom plastic molds are needed every single day in the world of orthotics and prosthetics, so having 3D printing technology on hand is a significant benefit for these types of practices.
Using 3D printing ensures greater precision in design. The result is better fitting, more comfortable devices for patients that can be developed on the same day the scan is done, without the need to contract that work out to a middleman.
Knowing this, one might question how other companies that develop medical devices for these care providers are still in business. The answer is simple: the technology is still developing. While there are some significant convenience and financial benefits associated with using 3D printers, there are still some drawbacks associated with the technology that may give O&P providers some pause.
For example, the materials used in 3D printing are often not as durable as the materials used for these devices in other methods of development. The printers often use polylactic acid, which is very light. While there are some benefits to lightweight devices, this can also result in their not being strong enough to support a significant amount of weight, which could make damage or breakage more likely in some circumstances, or reduce the versatility or reliability of those devices.
There are some 3D printing materials that are strong enough to prevent this from being a significant issue, but those materials are still so expensive that the financial advantages of 3D printing would be canceled out if they were used.
Of course, we are still in the early days of the technology’s usage in prosthetics development and the medical field in general. At the rate the technology is growing and developing, however, it’s likely only a matter of time before material availability and pricing shifts.
For now, 3D printing is particularly useful for model prosthetics that are not meant for everyday use. They can also be good for kids who will quickly outgrow their devices, and for whom investing in an especially expensive device wouldn’t make very much sense.
To learn more about how 3D printing in prosthetics is capturing the imagination of the O&P world and the types of devices that are most likely to be 3D printed, we encourage you to contact the team at Prothotic Laboratories, Inc. today.