3D Printing of Medical Products Reaches Mainstream

Gartner, Inc. said that 3D printing (3DP) technology has progressed rapidly in recent years, and that medical applications are leading to some of the most significant deployments of 3DP technology.

Gartner’s 2015 Hype Cycle for 3D Printing reveals that 3DP of medical devices has reached the Peak of Inflated Expectations, but certain specialist applications are already becoming the norm in medical care (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Hype Cycle for 3D Printing, 2015

gartner graph

“In the healthcare industry, 3DP is already in mainstream use to produce medical items that need to be tailored to individuals, such as hearing aids and dental devices,” said Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner.

“All of the major hearing aid manufacturers now offer devices that are personalized to the shape of the customer’s ear,” said Mr Basiliere. “This is evidence that using 3DP for mass customization of consumer goods is now viable, especially given that the transition from traditional manufacturing in this market took less than two years. Routine use of 3DP for dental implants is also not far from this level of market maturity.”

Some medical 3DP technologies are further from mainstream use, but are equally, if not more, exciting. Hip and knee replacements, for example, are a $15 billion industry and are one of the most common surgical procedures. Early trials using personalized 3D-printed replacements indicate improved healing times and function of the implant as well as an improved success rate in more complex operations. Given the size of the market, Gartner predicts that 3D-printed hip and knee replacements, as well as other common internal and external medical devices, will be in mainstream use within two to five years.

Looking further out, at least five to 10 years to mainstream adoption, there is bioprinting. 3D bioprinting has two categories in this Hype Cycle: one focused on producing living tissues for human transplant, the other for life sciences’ research and development (R&D).

“Some of these R&D systems are already capable of printing cells, proteins, DNA and drugs, however there are significant barriers to mainstream adoption,” said Michael Shanler, research director at Gartner. “The sheer complexity of the items to be printed and the high maintenance requirements of these systems mean that initial deployments will be mostly limited to specialist service providers. We see mainstream adoption increasing as the systems become more diverse in their functions.”Read more

Source: Gartner Press Release

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