By: Dr. Ahmed Ali Basalah

3D printing and its medical applications

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The last decades have witnessed a rise in the movements of "independent manufacturers" around the world, which are concerned with enabling the consumer to own the production tools necessary to manufacture the goods that suit him personally, even without the need to refer to the goods of large companies manufactured in huge quantities that may not be suitable for everyone's requirements, and this movement has taken advantage of Al-Sha’bi uses several modern technologies such as open source software and equipment and 3D printing, which are the subject of our discussion today. The American Society for Testing and Materials defines 3D printing (scientifically called additive manufacturing) as the process of joining particles of materials to each other to form a three-dimensional model based on the digital data of the model. The various applications of 3D printing penetrate into many industries, whether for making prototypes or for manufacturing finished products.

3D printing has already proven its promising potential in several areas, with significant research being conducted today to develop its use in building homes and bridges in the construction industry, producing space rocket and aircraft parts in the aerospace industry, and even for making nanomaterials for pharmaceuticals and chemicals. But our talk here today will be about a specific sector, which is the medical and dental industries, as it has many applications for 3D printing that we can classify on three levels of increasing complexity and accuracy.

Accordingly, experts believe that the first level of simplicity is making non-living three-dimensional models of human body organs, which help surgeons to plan surgeries by simulating the organ to be operated on. This application began early in the beginning of the second millennium, specifically in 2003 AD, Where this method was used in the process of separating the Egyptian Siamese twins Mohamed and Ahmed in the American city of Dallas, due to the complexity of the process and the adhesion of the two children’s skulls, which prompted doctors to print a model that simulates a skull containing blood vessels, which facilitated the surgery a lot, and plastic doctors also benefited from making Models of patients who will undergo surgeries, to give the patient a preliminary vision by printing a model that simulates the new shape of the organ even before the operation.

As for the second level of 3D printing applications, we find the printing of medical devices and equipment, and we can include here many of these devices, such as hearing aids and artificial limbs for the same patient, in addition to orthopedic prostheses in the knees and artificial thigh joints, up to the most complex of these devices such as the microscopic actuator Which pushes the sperm to fertilize the egg, which was announced last year in Germany. In dentistry, we find that 3D printing techniques have several advantages that make them superior to their counterparts from traditional techniques, as traditional methods require a lot of time and effort to produce orthodontic equipment customized to the dimensions of a patient’s mouth, while 3D printing on the other cuff facilitated obtaining These dimensions are easy, as a three-dimensional scanner is used and its images are sent to the printer to print it with high accuracy, which gives the 3D printing technology the ability to control the properties of the printed dental implants to have physical properties similar to the patient’s jaw bone, and there are many other devices that are difficult to limit in These few lines.

On the third, most advanced and complex level, we find the field of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, in which
Multiple specializations in reproducing and rehabilitating living tissues to replace them instead of damaged tissues, which paves the way for printing entire human organs using 3D printing. Reaching this stage requires very complex and high-precision techniques in the manufacture of vital structures and their customization to the patient, which was provided by 3D printing technology, where printers use living cells as ink to make a structure for vital tissues and their tiny blood vessels, and this advanced level represents the therapeutic future for many Chronic diseases, and the only solution to provide replacement organs for patients on waiting lists for transplant.

Many researchers in the field of 3D printing believe that medical applications will be the driving wheel for its development, especially because of the customization of the printed product that changes according to the patient's condition.

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