3D PRINTING NEW MEDICAL APPLICATIONS
Additive manufacturing -mainly known as 3D Printing– already has a broad reach. It’s used to make everything from shoes and car parts to blood vessels and sunglasses.
There is already a great number of technologies, like FDM, SLS, SLA, MJF and it has many functions in a big variety of industries, becoming a usual tool not only for prototype but also for short serial productions into several market segments.
Therefore, currently is not unexpected to see these kind of machines in the architectural studios, engineering companies and industrial design studios, but the additive technology is also breaking through the medical sector.
Far from the most typical and direct applications we can think on, such as organs printing, strong, immobilization cells, etc. the 3D printing concept starts being applied into the precision medicine.
Globally, different companies and researchers are using this concept to “print” personalizeddrugs, so the objective is to make size, dosage, appearance, and rate of delivery of drug to be designed to suit a person. Forget those long lines at the pharmacy: Maybe, sooner than later, you might be making your own medicines at home.
Researchers from the University College London School of Pharmacy found that the rate at which a drug is released in the body depends on the ratio between the pill’s surface area and its volume. For example, a pyramid releases a drug faster than a cube or sphere. They established a spinout company, FabRx, in 2014, and believe they will be able to commercialize their ‘printlets’ in the next five to ten years.
As an example, Leroy Cronin, a chemist at the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom, was looking for a stand-alone device. He wanted to broaden the ability of consumers to make drugs and other chemicals, in essence “democratizing” chemistry in much the same way MP3 players did for music, by turning songs into a digital code that can be played by any device with the right software.
Many pharmaceutical companies are also exploring the idea of 3D printing, although it seems unlikely, at least in the medium term, that the technology could ever compete with traditional drug manufacturing.
3D-printed ‘polypills’ could combine multiple drugs in fixed-dose formulations, so that each drug would have a unique release profile and allows big pharmaceutical companies to offer a really personalized product, aligned with consumer insights.
Increasingly, seems that in a few years the whole world could be printed.