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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 40-41

The medical application of three-dimensional printing

Department of Medicine, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson AZ 85721, Arizona, USA

Date of Web Publication11-May-2016

Correspondence Address:
Joseph S Alpert
Department of Medicine, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, Arizona
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2226-8561.182300

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How to cite this article:
Alpert JS. The medical application of three-dimensional printing. Digit Med 2016;2:40-1

How to cite this URL:
Alpert JS. The medical application of three-dimensional printing. Digit Med [serial online] 2016 [cited 2023 Mar 29];2:40-1. Available from: http://www.digitmedicine.com/text.asp?2016/2/1/40/182300

Dear Editor,

I read with interest the report about three-dimensional (3D) printing by Dai. In this report, Dai mentions that 3D printing is emerging as a promising technology due to the rapid development of a series of associated high technologies, with medical applications now becoming a major focus with important implications for the future of digital medicine.[1] Indeed, 3D printing, a technology used for decades in the industrial field, is gaining a considerable amount of attention in the medical field because of its potential benefits, including personalization, precision, and potential for clinical utility.

Furthermore, Dai emphasizes that medical applications of 3D printing technology can be categorized into four major classes: Medical modeling and nonimplanted medical devices, medical implants, 3D printing-assisted tissue engineering, and bioprinting.[1]

In the first case, 3D printing technology can truly benefit medical modeling and the development of nonimplanted devices. According to a recent report, this technology can help produce rugged, lightweight, easily replaceable, and low-cost assistive hands for children, overcoming the challenge of continually changing size due to physical growth.[2] In the second category, producing medical implants, AlAli et al. reported that printed implants have already been used in patients in a few cases with highly satisfactory results although longer follow-up and further trials are clearly needed.[3] As for 3D printing-assisted tissue engineering, it truly appears that this use may well be possible in the near future. Tarafder et al. have developed a micro-precise spatiotemporal delivery system embedded in 3D-printed scaffolds, which could serve as an efficient tool to regenerate complex and inhomogeneous tissues.[4] The current research has confirmed the feasibility of 3D printing in tissue engineering and clinical experience will soon be sought. For bioprinting, the last class which involves the fabrication of alternatives to human tissues and organs, significant challenges remain. However, it seems likely that with more time and clinical experience, 3D printing of human organs will become possible. For example, already a breakthrough has been made in 3D printing of the skin and kidney in the research sponsored by the US military.[5] Thus, it may not be long before we will be able to eliminate the current challenge to widespread organ transplantation, that is, the shortage of organs needed for successful transplantation.

Dai mentions that several problems must be addressed to promote medical applications of 3D printing, for example, software design, formulation of standards, and specifications for medical applications of 3D printing.[1] However, it seems clear that the establishment of standardized training and management systems for doctors and engineering technicians involving 3D printing as a newly emerging digital technology will certainly reform medicine in many aspects with wide applications in a variety of clinical settings. These applications will clearly become the focus of a great deal of important research with major implications for the future of medicine.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Dai KR. 3D printing: The cutting edge of digital medicine. Digit Med 2015;2:51-3.  Back to cited text no. 1
Burn MB, Ta A, Gogola GR. Three-dimensional printing of prosthetic hands for children. J Hand Surg Am 2016;41:e103-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
AlAli AB, Griffin MF, Butler PE. Three-dimensional printing surgical applications. Eplasty 2015;15:e37.  Back to cited text no. 3
Tarafder S, Koch A, Jun Y, Chou C, Awadallah MR, Lee CH. Micro-precise spatiotemporal delivery system embedded in 3D printing for complex tissue regeneration. Biofabrication 2016;8:025003.  Back to cited text no. 4
3dprinterworld.com. Wake Forest 3D Prints Skin Cells Onto Burn Wounds. Available from: . [Last accessed on 2013 Jul 10].  Back to cited text no. 5


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