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How 3D Printing is Changing the Face of the Medical Industry
The list of medical applications for 3D printing was originally compiled by the team at 3D model marketplace CGTrader and has been edited for publication here.
Recently 3D printing has been a hot mainstream trend, but there are thousands of people who are still not aware of this mind-blowing technology. Obviously, 3D printing is being carefully watched by scientists, designers, futurists, and hobbyists. No doubt, it will change our lives; 3D printing is already reshaping them. In the long run, 3D printing may have the most impact in the medical field, where extrusion of living cells instead of plastic material in a 3D printer has led to bioprinting.
Here is a completely mind-blowing list of the top 9 ways 3D printing has already changed all the branches of the medicine and what to expect in the future. Moreover, this article touches upon a controversial topic of artificial organs. Keep reading!
1. 3D Printed Hearing Aids
Thousands of people do not realize that they have already become a part of 3D printing revolution by simply wearing hearing aids.
98% of hearing aids (more than 10 million) are 3D printed today. Hearing aid manufacturing began to adopt 3D printing technology in 1998 and it has been a significant improvement to manufacturing. The process has been shortened to 3 steps: scanning, modeling, and printing. One machine is able to produce 30 hearing aids in one hour and a half.
- 3D printed batteries could marry form and function for hearing aids
- TED talk by Klaus Stadlmann: The world’s smallest 3D printer
- 3D Printed Hearing Aids: A Revolution You May Have Not Heard About
2. Digital Dentistry Brings 3D Printing Into the Dental Office
3D printing’s contribution to the dental industry has been game-changing. Scientist Andrew Daewood, who works in London’s Wimpole Street, notices that before the 3D printing has become the mainstream, “dentists have been using it for 10 years, to make things that really can’t be made in any other way.”
3D printing helps to improve quality and speeds up the production. Technology enables the customer to get a transparent 3D printed teeth aligner for day-to-day use, on one’s way to the dentist 3D printer is already printing out a new dental implant as well as dental crowns, bridges, stone models and a variety of orthodontic appliances.
- 3D Printing Advances Dentistry in London at Daewood & Tanner Practice
- Dental Labs Redefine Personal Care with Onsite 3D Printing
- What The Hell Is Digital Dentistry?
3. 3D Printing Body Parts and Bone
Earlier this year, an American patient received a radical surgery in which 75% of his skull was replaced with a 3D printed implant. This material was not only biocompatible but also a bone-like. Scott DeFelice, President and CEO of Oxford Performance Materials, announced that his company has serious plans that between 300 to 500 patients in the U.S. alone could have skull replacement surgeries each month.
Last year an 83-year old woman has received the very first titanium jaw implant manufactured with 3D printer.
In another story, a 3D printed biopolymer of windpipe was surgically sewn as a splint to open a baby’s airways. After 2 to 3 years it will be fully absorbed in the body.
- Innovative and Strange 3D Printing: Chocolate, Stone, Candy, Organs
- 3D Printed Parts Inside A Human Body: A Fact or Fairy Tale?
4. The Miracles of Prosthetics: 3D Printed Face and Children Hands
Injuries and disease can cause debilitating health conditions for people, to the point where a prosthetic limb or other body part is necessary to maintain quality of life.Thanks to 3D printing, prosthetics have become easier to customize and produce. Here are three particularly inspiring cases.
Eric Moger was the first person to start a life once again with 3D printed face.
A famous Robohand project has proved that anything is possible. The idea was a goal to reach by Richard Van As from South Africa and he finally come up with the concept how to produce necessary hand prosthesis quickly, quite cheaply, and make it accessible to the wide society.
Meet Buttercup, the first and only bird that has 3D printed leg prosthesis.
Thanks to 3D printing and devoted designers, Buttercup has experienced the freedom of walking for the first time. Moreover, this duck is the worldwide superstar, that got an award for honours. Just creepy amazing.
Get Rid of Itchy and Stinky Plaster Casts!
Were you jealous of kids who broke an arm but then got all their friends to sign their cast? With 3D printing technology, the traditional plaster cast is being replaced by a light, breathable, washable and recyclable design. And, of course, stylish.
In the U.S., a bone fracture occurs every 5 seconds. Enter the Cortex Exoskeleton cast designed by Jake Evill, a graduate from the Architecture and Design School in New Zealand. With a 3D scan, the cast can be 3D printed onsite at the emergency room.
- 3D Printed Legs: Giving Amputees the Power of Personal Expression
- If Lizards Can Grow Tails, Humans Should Print Limbs
5. 3D Printing and Growing a Bionic Ear
When researchers from Princeton and John Hopkins get together, expect something big. In this case, a team of researchers developed a bionic, artificial ear. With the help of 3D printing, the team created a skeletal structure which is seeded with cartilage cells, and 10 weeks later, you have a fully formed ear!
- The World Turns Bionic: 3D Printed Bionic Ear
- Cornell Professor Develops Technique for 3D Printing a Human Ear
6. 3D Printing Stem Cells Paves the Way to Artificial Organs
3D printing enabled a group of Heriot Watt University scientists to produce clusters of embryonic stem cells. The scientists used the method of valve-based printing in order to keep these cells in high level of viability, to stay accurate to produce spheroids of uniform size and to maintain their pluripotency that addresses to differentiation into any other cell type.
In the picture above you can see aggregated embryonic stem cells after 24 hours (left) and after 48 hours (right). Artificial organs are still in the near future, but this achievement is extremely significant for drug testing purposes while using artificial human tissue or even printing cells directly inside the body.
- Invest in Bioprinting to Get a 3D Printed Ear or New Hip
- A 3-D Printer for Human Embryonic Stem Cells
7. 3D Printing Endless Blood Vessels Threads
Scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany developed a technique to 3D print artificial biological molecules to form the shape of blood vessels. This technology is still quite imprecise for the fine structures of capillary vessels, so the scientists use the laser to zap the molecules and to form the material.
In other findings, UPenn and MIT researchers found sugar as the best agent to 3D print blood vessels without any seams.
- Scientists Create Blood Vessels Using Sugar and 3D Printing
- Tissue Printer to Fabricate Artificial Blood Cells
8. New Skin, Courtesy of 3D Printing
Skin graft transplantation is nothing new in the medicine, but now 3D printing technology is enabling scientists to produce artificial skin. Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed a method of loading skin cells and various polymers into 3D printer to create thick layers of skin.
In other research, scientists from the Institute of Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina aim to print skin directly onto burn wounds. Professor James Yoo and his team were highly inspired to develop a portable bioprinting system to help address injuries in the battlefield, where around 30% of injuries involve skin damage.
9. 3D Printed Organs: A Fiction or The Great Achievement of The Next Decade?
18 people die everyday in the U.S. waiting for an organ transplant. Some researchers have embarked on a bold goal of 3D printing artificial organs.
In one example, surgeon Anthony Atala demonstrated an early-stage experiment at a 2011 TED Talk, where he printed a prototype human kidney.
In other research, Wake Forest Institute For Regeneration works on more than 30 different replacement tissues and organs, including bladder, cartilage, trachea and heart healing therapies. Using similar technology to Atala, a young patient received an engineered bladder transplant, the first lab-grown organ to be implanted into a human.
The world’s first artificial liver is already on its way. A team at Heriot Watt University led by Dr. Will Shu are running experiments with this goal in mind, again using 3D printing in the manufacturing process.
Finally, San Diego-based Organovo team has already managed to create micro-livers that are half a millimeter deep and and 4 millimeters wide. The researchers used a gel to build three types of liver cells and arranged them into the same kind of 3D cell architecture found in a human liver. The company’s ultimate goal is to create human-sized structures suitable for transplant, but they might need more capital.
- Biofabrication: Scientists 3D Print Stem Cells to Create Human Organs
- Video: Growing New Organs with 3D Printing (TED Talk)
- Video: The Best 7 TED Talks On 3D Printing
- Organovo 3D Printing: Bold Mission But Needs Cash, May Offer Secondary
- 3D printing human organs – but where’s the money for it?
That’s it! 9 amazing ways that 3D printing is revolutionizing modern medical research.
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Cover photo: The Body Shop Kevin Hand
A roundup of the top news On 3D Printing brought you from February 18 to February 24:
Wednesday, February 20
Lawrence Bonassar, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Cornell University, has been working to solve this problem by developing a “living ink” that can be used to 3D print the cartilage for a human ear. His research was published in the journal PLoS One and featured on NPR.
“The ear is really remarkable from a mechanical perspective,” says Lawrence Bonassar, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Cornell University who has been working with a group to develop a better replacement ear.
To make the ear, Bonassar and his colleagues scanned the ears of his twin daughters, who were 5 at the time. They used a 3-D printer to build a plastic mold based on the scan. Those printers, similar to a home inkjet, lately have also been adapted to experiment with making chocolate, guns, and even kidneys.
They then injected a soup of collagen, living cartilage cells, and culture medium. The soup congeals “like Jell-O,” Bonassar tells Shots. “All this happens quickly. You inject the mold, and in 15 minutes you have an ear ready to go.”
Well, not exactly. What they have is an ear-shaped chunk of cells that would have to be tucked under the skin on the side of the head by a plastic surgeon before it could become an ear.
To test whether their ear-mold would become living, useful ear cartilage, the researchers implanted samples under the skin on the back of laboratory rats. In three months, cartilage cells took over the collagen, making for a solid-yet-flexible chunk of cartilage that retained its precise shape and size.
Bonassar thinks this technology can be used in humans in 5 years, with any luck.
Below is a video featuring this amazing research.