3D Printing: Revolution of Prosthetics

Source: The Guardian

The latest 3D printing innovation has the potential to change the way you think about prosthetics. Individuals who are victims of conflict, born with congenital conditions and casualties of road accidents face difficulties in availing prosthetics which reduces their mobility. Approximately, only 20% of the world’s population have received prosthetics. And now, is the time to change this!

Trained professionals have developed 3D printed skin for victims of burn, facial reconstruction parts and many more. This developing technology has helped in producing customised hearing-aid shells and moulds for the ears. Jaw surgery and knee replacement operations are often conducted with the help of surgical guides printed on the machines. It is, therefore, not a surprise that this form of printing is being used for prosthetics as well.

Conventional prosthetics involve a lot of work and expertise to manufacture and get fitted on the casualties. There are time and finance related issues as well due to which patients and their families may not be willing to opt for this procedure. The final result is that prosthetics are among the most required medical devices. With time, 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing is revolutionizing medicine science apart from other aspects such as cosmetics and cars.

Experts wanted to develop a model for prosthetics which would be possible to rescale and reprint for the same individual in future and hence, came up with a 3D printed mechanical hand. This has now grown into a network with 7,000 members across several countries with access to 2,000 printers. These were mainly devised for the children as they disliked the look and weight of traditional prosthetics. The 3D printed hands cost approximately 40 pounds and come in many colors, making it look more attractive. According to doctors, this will revolutionize the prosthetic field by lowering costs and giving doctors, engineers, and patients the chance to modify the prosthetics as they want to.

The 3D printing technology will also change the way you think about your visits to the dentist's thanks to researchers at the University of Groningen who are working on the creation of 3D printed teeth using antimicrobial plastics. This special kind of plastic kills bacteria potentially responsible for tooth decay on contact.The concept of having a 3D printed tooth may not seem too great but imagine having clean white teeth forever without having to worry about any damage to them! Antimicrobial quaternary ammonium salts were embedded inside existing dental resin polymers. As this mix is fed into the 3D printer, it hardens with ultraviolet rays and can be used to print 3D replacement teeth. To test this antibacterial property, the researchers coated the printed tooth with human saliva and exposed it to tooth decaying bacteria. 

This tooth killed more than 99% bacteria and showed no signs of being harmful to human cells. Further researches and experiments are being conducted to make these technologies more cost effective and easily available especially, in the developing countries.

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