At the dawn of rapid prototyping, a common predication was that 3D printing would transform manufacturing, spurring a consumer revolution that would put a printer in every home. That hasn't quite happened—-and like so many emerging technologies, rapid prototyping has found its foothold in a surprisingly different field: Medicine.
The following studies and projects represent some of the most fascinating examples of "bioprinting," or using a computer-controlled machine to assemble biological matter using organic inks and super-tough thermoplastics. They range from reconstructing major sections of skull to printing scaffolding upon which stem cells can grow into new bones. More below—and look out for more 3D printing week content over the next few days.
Osteofab is a product made by a British company called Oxford Performance Materials. OPM got into the business by selling a high-performance polymer often used in medical implants—a thermoplastic called polyetherketoneketone—in raw form. But over the past few years, the company has also pioneered the application of the stuff, primarily through additive manufacturing. In February, an American patient received an FDA-approved skull patch made of the material, which had been carefully molded and printed to fit 75 percent of his unique skull geometry. [Osteofab]