Five ways 3D Printing will change healthcare

A new study of the potential for 3D printing in the healthcare industry predicts wide-ranging advancements and disruptions as the technology is adopted by more hospitals and manufacturers.

The report, published by Dr. Jason Chuen and Dr. Jasamine Coles-Black of Austin Health in Melbourne, Australia, outlines five key areas where 3D printing will likely have the biggest impact on healthcare.

Chuen, the director of vascular surgery at Austin Health and director of the hospital’s 3D medical printing laboratory, uses 3D-printed models of aortas to practice delicate surgeries.

“By using the model I can more easily assess that the stent is the right size and bends in exactly the right way when I deploy it,” said Dr. Chuen.

The five areas discussed in the report include:

1. Bioprinting and Tissue Engineering: Scientists are already building 3D-printed organoids to mimic human organs at a small scale, and the report predicts that eventually hospitals will be able to print human tissue structures that could eliminate the need for some transplants.

However, Chuen says that “Unless there is some breakthrough that enables us to keep the cells alive while we print them, then I think printing a full human organ will remain impossible. But where there is potential is in working out how to reliably build organoids or components that we could then bind together to make them function like an organ.”

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Is your technology stuck in the last Industrial Revolution?

Technology represents the largest uncertainty for which most companies do not have a strategy—yet the right strategy turns uncertainty into opportunity. For example, with technology, Walmart turned the uncertainties of retail procurement and logistics into an empire, Amazon turned customer order uncertainty into the basis of its mission – “Earth’s Most Customer Centric Company.” Google famously turned the mass of internet chaos into actionable information for other companies.

These companies reflect the earliest transition from the Third Industrial Revolution that focuses on digital inter-connectivity to the Fourth Industrial Revolution that focuses on combining technologies across all arenas: digital, physical and biological. Many companies are still stuck in the Third Industrial Revolution, with prognostications of digitizing and integrating supply chains. The problem is that digitization has become the price of entry—nearly every one of the long list of retailers that has recently gone bankrupt was digitized and “connected.”

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US Navy can now 3D print submarines on the fly for SEALs

It usually takes the Navy around five months to build even the smallest submarines to ferry Navy SEALs into and out of combat zones — but thanks to new technology, the Navy’s most elite warfighters could slap together a submersible hull in just a few weeks.

navy submarines 3d-printing header photo

That’s the promise behind the Optionally Manned Technology Demonstrator (OMTD), the U.S. military’s first 3D-printed submarine hull, unveiled by the Navy on July 24. Fabricated by the high-tech Big Area Additive Manufacturing 3D printing machine at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the 30-foot submersible hull was inspired by the SEAL Delivery Vehicles used by the branch and U.S. Special Operations Command to deploy Navy special warriors and their gear into particularly dangerous areas.

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Hype, hype cycles and applying reason

Has the inflated hysteria and hype around 3D printing really been banished? The mainstream media’s obsession with 3D printing peaked around 2012-14, despite the efforts of industry veterans to push back. Reality seemed to bite, though, and things calmed down a great deal, even to the point of ‘negative hype.’

Recently however, a number of hyped headlines about 3D printing have crept back. Some are simply clickbait, but others are simply uninformed hype, backed by equally uninformed content. Both are irritating, but the latter is more insidious.

I have been using Twitter to take on some of the ridiculous 3D printing headlines that are proliferating across news sites and their social media channels once again.

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3D Printing helps bring the underground Crossrail to London

Crossrail, a £14.8 billion project to expand London’s underground train network, is using 3D printing in the construction of its tunnels.

Competing alongside leading contractors including SKANSKA, BAM Nuttall and Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering, UK privately owned construction company Laing O’Rourke is using the technology to get the edge on tunnel building.

Europe’s largest construction project 

Spanning over 100km, and connecting 40 stations from east to west, Crossrail is the largest construction project in Europe. The new tunnel under construction is named The Elizabeth Line after the reigning Queen Elizabeth II.

Reaching further east. A section of the forthcoming Elizabeth line. Image via Crossrail.

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3D Printing sees growth in new areas

A recent report from the research firm CONTEXT shows that shipments of 3D printers were up 16 percent in the first quarter of 2017, with much of the growth emanating from mid-market offerings. This would encompass high-end desktop and low-end professional units selling for between $3,000 and $25,000. Higher-end professional units actually saw a decline of nearly eight percent when compared with Q1 of 2016.

Metal 3D printing aka Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DSML)Overall, global 3D printer sales were up four percent in the first quarter, with metal printers spiking in demand. Additionally, the average price per unit of professional grade models increased from $111,241 to $128,549. Heightened demand actually dropped the average price of personal/desktop units from $1,142 to $970.

Leading vendors in the personal/desktop market include XYZprinting, with 17,000 units sold and $8 million in revenue, and Ultimaker with 6,000 units sold and $17 million in revenue. In the professional category, Stratasys continues to be the market leader with nearly $100 million in Q1 sales. However, the biggest gain in market share was recorded by EOS.

As a pioneer and leader in metal 3D printing, the German company registered $50 million in first quarter sales. This represents a 16 percent year-over-year increase.

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Changing how houses get built – combining 3D printing and robots, Swiss style

eth switzerland dfab house zurich 2Eight scientists from Switzerland’s ETH Zurich University have embarked on a bold plan to build the next generation of construction robots, and their proof-of-concept is a first-generation robot that is actively building a 200-square-foot homeon the school’s campus. The project is bringing together a suite of cutting-edge technologies including 3D printing, modular construction, and new methods of construction. The DFAB House is believed to be the first house in the world to be designed, planned and built using primarily digital processes.

“Unlike construction projects that use only a single digital building technology, such as 3D printed houses, the DFAB HOUSE brings a range of new digital building technologies together. This allows us to use the advantages of each individual method as well as their synergies, and express them architecturally,” says ETH professor Matthias Kohler.

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3D Printing the next 5 years by Lee-Bath Nelson co-founder LEO Lane

Co-Founder and VP Business at LEO LaneIn this article looking at the future of 3D printing, Lee-Bath Nelson advises on the need to smart about Distributed Additive Manufacturing.

Earlier this quarter the Wohlers Report for 2017 came out – this report is much anticipated and quoted in the Additive Manufacturing ecosystem (and, yes, I will quote it too…). Shortly thereafter, Sculpteo released their State of 3D printingreport based on a survey of 900+ companies with an average budget of under $10k/year for 3D printing. To varying degrees, both these reports (and others analyzing this ecosystem) are missing the bigger revolution that is happening under our noses and that will only accelerate over the coming 5 years. Its impact is huge.

This revolution might be harder to see since it is mixed in with a much more mature, prototype and maker, market that is served by 3D printers which can muddy the view when reading these reports, especially the one from Sculpteo. We’ll get back to these reports in a bit, but let’s first consider the impact this ecosystem already has and could have within 5 years on business at corporations that use Additive Manufacturing (AM) for manufacturing.

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3D Printing the next five years

This is a guest post in 3Dprintingindustry.com’s series looking at the future of 3D Printing. To celebrate their fifth year of reporting on the 3D printing industry, they invited industry leaders and 3D printing experts to give their perspective and predictions for the next five years and insight into trends in additive manufacturing.


Stephan Thomas and Joe Inkenbrandt co-founders of Identify3D.Stephan Thomas is the co-founder of Identify3D. The Identify3D digital supply chain platform provides design protection, quality assurance, and data logistics for digital manufacturing. The California based company recently won the Innovation Award at RAPID 2017.

3D Printing: the next 5 years by Stephan Thomas, co-founder of Identify3D

Predicting the future by looking at the past

So, where were we in 2011? 3D printing was a concept largely confined to R&D departments. According to the Wohlers report, the market was about $1.6 billion and at that time the prediction for the market was to reach $5.7B in 2017 and about $10B in 2021, a 21% CAGR.

Fast forward to 2017 and the market is about $8.8B, 4.5 times larger than 2011 and 54% greater than estimated. There is only one thing certain with 5 year predictions: they will always be wrong, even if directionally correct. If we apply the similar margin of error then the 3D printing market will be a lot bigger than the $26.5B projected for 2021. Or perhaps even greater than $50B.

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Materialise summit expounds on next 3D Printing frontier

For generations Italy’s Nuova SPA produced automotive classics, then focuses on bicycles. Bicicletto is an electric bike designed with the aesthetics of a vintage model. By designing for partial production using 3D printing, Nuova was able to reduce total weight and cut production costs. Image courtesy of Materialise.For 20 years, most discussions around 3D printing have been about its use in prototyping. By contrast, the presentations and discussions at the recent Materialise World Summit in Brussels were about the disruption of all engineering and manufacturing processes, from initial design consideration to final part or product delivery.

Like the proverbial blind men and the elephant, the main stage presenters all described the new processes of additive manufacturing (AM) from their own specific frame of reference. All saw disruption of processes as the central theme of 3D printing for the next few years. (The terms “additive manufacturing” and “3D printing” were used interchangeably during the conference). More than 600 attendees listened to 50+ speakers from leading industrial and medical organizations, including Siemens, BASF, GE, Airbus, GKN, HOYA, Atos, SAP, Safilo, Mayo Clinic, Geisinger Health System, Johnson & Johnson and others. In addition, two panel discussions were organized to allow industry experts to address the future of the technology.

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