3D printing may not yet be ready for large-scale manufacturing, but it’s making its mark in other realms. It’s been used by hobbyists, fashion designers, and chefs. Recently NASA made history by emailing the first wrench to the International Space Station. The process could indeed prove revolutionary, but often overlooked is the impact it could have in the field of healthcare.
3D printing is already having an impact on how we treat illness and injury on several fronts. Consider that already healthcare workers can print casts for broken bones that can heal bones up to 4o percent faster. Each cast is custom-fitted to each patient and their respective injuries. The fabrication process also allows for ventilation holes; that means the cast will not smell or itch, and can even be fitted with a low-intensity ultrasound system which helps hasten the bones in their rebuilding process.
Already this is a welcome development. However, recently 3D printing took another big step forward in the healthcare world. Researchers in the U.S. and Australia say they can now print human tissues that can survive on their own. The major sticking point had always been that they were unable to develop the blood vessels to provide cells with nutrients and oxygen – a process called “vascularization.” But in a major breakthrough, researchers have managed to 3D bio-print capillaries, the tiny channels that allow vascularization to take place.
This is a major development, and could one day lead to being able to print organs. The engineers urge restraint, and say that printing organs is still decades away, but nonetheless what they had accomplished was “game-changing.”
Thousands of people die every year due to a lack of organs for transplantation, and many more are subjected to surgical removal of tissues and organs due to cancer or other ailments. While printing organs may be a few decades away, researchers also feel they wouldn’t be surprised if it occurred faster, as the technology is moving so quickly.
Printing presses have always been one of the places you’re most likely to find Rexroth electric motion control, and Rexroth’s Indramat componenets revolutionized printing in the 20th century. Perhaps 3D printing will one day be able to reach the scale of today’s industrial printing presses. In the meantime, if you need Rexroth support, you need us. Call 479-422-0390 for immediate service.