3D printing heralds the possibility of rapid prototyping and production of low-volume customized products. In the last decade, additive manufacturing using 3D printing has seen a sudden boom, given the patent right expiry of Stratasys in 2009. Stratasys is the company that happens to be the brain behind 3D printing in the early 90s.
A typical 3D printer for printing plastics now costs anywhere from $300 -$2000 and it can fit on a small table. Since 3D printers are now cheap and affordable, this has given new powers to the users to own a 3D printer to print supplies when they run dry instead of waiting long enough for a manufacturer to ship the products. I believe that 10-12 years down the line, it would be a necessity for many to own a 3D printer just like owning a personal computer in the early 2000s.
3D Printing Medical Devices
3D printing technology has emerged as an important asset for humanitarian aid in recent years. This additive manufacturing technique allows access to devices and tools that would otherwise be inaccessible in situations such as disaster zones or low-income areas. In recent years, this technology has been put to use in the Nepal earthquake and the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy. Here are a few startups, NGOs and voluntary organizations working to provide humanitarian aid using 3D printing.
1. Field Ready
During the Nepal earthquake of 2015, 3D printing allowed the volunteers of Field Ready, a non-governmental and non-profit organization, a cheap and sustainable way of providing aid by fabricating medical devices and tools that would otherwise be impossible to obtain in the disaster zone.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy, Isinnova, an Italian start up, saved the lives of 10 patients by 3D printing ventilator valves when the resources at Chiari hospital became limited.
3. Ayúdame 3D
Several other projects have also emerged recently in the wake of this development, such as Ayúdame 3D. This is a project from Spain which provides 3D-printed-arms to people with low resources worldwide, in order to improve people’s lives.
This Belgian company is a pioneer is developing patient-specific 3D printed medical implants and point-of-care devices. Materialise Mimics inPrint is a FDA approved software that converts the medical images into 3D anatomical models helping the doctors with pre-surgical planning.