The Future of Regenerative MedicineIn our previous blog post, Dr. David Dean gave an overview of his current projects in 3D printing and additive manufacturing. In this follow-up post, he hypothesizes on the future of the field.
3D printing emerged from a field called Rapid Prototyping, and the technology is used today in a wide variety of disciplines, from flight aerodynamics to architecture. The advanced technology saves engineers time that would typically be used make a model by hand. In regard to the potential evolution of 3D printing, I don’t believe the future of the medical field differs much from these other fields.
3D printers are now being used for end stage manufacturing – the actual fabrication of the final product and not just a prototype. The machines themselves are believed to become common consumer items, owned more and more by the general public. However, the most significant developments in 3D printing will be advancements in the materials used and the available design software.
In regenerative medicine and reconstructive plastic surgery, we cannot use raw geometries to fix a specific defect for an individual patient – there is too much variety in the bone structure of each patient. Plastic surgeons need to start with the patient’s unique body – and that is the premise we’ve been working with all along. The material properties used in the design of implants and the ability to predict the function and outcome of each unique patient’s implant on the computer will be the real growth area.
How can we customize these instantly functioning implants to each patient’s unique needs? That is the trick. That is where the field of 3D printing and additive manufacturing for regenerative medicine will really start to grow.
—Dr. David Dean, Ph.D.