3D Printing Medical Solutions

For thirty years, 3D printing has struggled to gain traction within the medical industry. However in recent years, it’s become readily available and better suited to medical applications. Accomplished by increases in precision and surface finish, being able to print …


George Field

August 6, 2019

For thirty years, 3D printing has struggled to gain traction within the medical industry. However in recent years, it’s become readily available and better suited to medical applications. Accomplished by increases in precision and surface finish, being able to print at resolutions of 20 microns on printers like the Form 2 and recent breakthroughs in material science

3D printing is a manufacturing method used too additively manufacture parts. 3D printing can now be accomplished in a plethora of different methods united around one common attribute – layer based fabrication.

Source: www.axial3d.com

Frequently we see anatomical models being used for planning surgery, educating students and explaining procedures to patients. Being able to physically show fractures, tumors or any other abnormality from scan data. For example, the process helps radiologists and surgeons visualize and create solutions for complex pathologies and abnormalities.

So you can print customized parts at 20 micron resolutions. With a smooth surface finish, a wide range of mechanical properties and with relative ease. How does this translate to success in the medical industry? Lets have a look at some case studies to answer this query.

Custom Stents for the Perfect Fit

3D Printed Custom Tracheal Stents
Source: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Custom made tracheal stents are used to open patients air ways. Everyone’s ariways are different though and there can be issues and discomfort using a straight stent (shown to the left). From scan data custom made stents can be 3d printed (show to the right). Check Out Dr. George Cheng work on creating tracheal stents.

Prototyping New Medical Devices

3D Printed Stitching Device Prototype

Sutrue created an automatic suturing device that performs neat and repeatable stitches, reducing the chance of tissue damage. The functional prototype (above) was prototyped with a Formlabs 3D printers by engineer Alex Berry and consultant cardiac surgeon Richard Trimlet.

Download a case study to learn more about how medical device engineers use the Form 2 to accelerate product development by iterating complex designs in days instead of weeks, at a fraction of the cost of outsourcing or silicone molding.

Mapping the Brain

3D Printed Neuron Model
Source: Eyewire

Over 200,000 people from 145 countries are mapping neurons. Eyewire is an online game where you map the brain. Eyewire use the Form 2 3D printer when creating complex neuron structures providing a better understanding.

Restoring Smiles

3D Printed Dental Surgical Guide

Reducing human error is one of the frequent benefits of 3D printing. Dentists often free hand drill attachment points, for dental implants. They should be using drill guides however drill guides can traditionally take a lot of time to be manufactured.

In steps 3D printing, bring the manufacture of biocompatable drill guides in house with a formlabs printer. Therefore reducing lead time and print directly from software that works off accurate scan data streamlining your process.

Medical Selfies

3D Printed Brain Tumor
Source: Paula Aguilera and Jonathan William

Anatomical models can be used in a variety of way and not always for planning and demonstrating advanced surgical procedures. Steven Keating volunteered for a study where his brain was scanned. Subsequently he discovered he had a baseball sized tumor.

Being an advocate patient data Steven has 3D printed his tumor to better educate others on the subject, he uses the anatomical model as a learning tool. To hear Steven’s full story, watch TEDxYYC talk.

Fluidics for Synthetic Biology

3D Printed Fluidics
Source: Dan Chen (left), Will Patrick (right)

3D microfluidic design is a new frontier currently being explored having previously only being done in 2D. The objective of the above design is to recreate the microbial community of the human gut. Learn more about millifluidic devices with Dan Chen’s design tips.

Training the Next Generation of Pediatric Surgeons

Injection Molded Medical Model

Biomedical Modeling Inc. is one of the top medical modeling companies in the industry. In one case, they created a mold of an infant’s spinal cord and cast a silicone model (above). Pediatric neurosurgeons used the model to practice operating on spina bifida, a severe congenital defect.

Learn more about the impact of using patient-specific anatomical models, from improving education and communication to drastically reducing theater and recovery time for complex procedures.

Custom Medical Models for Better Surgeries

3D Printed Aortic Aneurysm Models

Dr. Mike Itagaki uses desktop 3D printing to create medical models (like the aortic aneurysm reproductions above) for surgical prep, training models, and more. In one case, Dr. Itagaki saved a patient’s spleen by practicing a breakthrough reconstructive surgery on a 3D model printed from her CT scan. This success story inspired him to found Embodi3D, the first online medical 3D printing community.

Recommended 3D Printers

Formlabs SLA 3D Printers

The Formlabs printers stand out for medical applications. Anyone can learn to use a 3D printer when its a Formlabs printer. No direct handling of resin and no post processing required when using the form wash and cure. We also provide top tier support and training for those looking for an intimate understanding of the 3D print process.


If your thinking a 3D printer could improve your process, reduce human error and provide an intuitive hands on experience to colleagues and customers, get in contact with us, checkout the shop and subscribe to our blog. If your curious about materials available like biocompatible dental resin request a sample here!

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