3D Printing in the biomedical field

The application of 3D printing to biosciences and biomedicine has the potential to transform diseases’ prevention, diagnosis and therapies, as well as post-surgical rehabilitation.

This new technology is already being used to create objects and prosthesis: many biocompatible metals’ materials are 3D-printed for orthopaedic applications (prosthetic hands, arms, jaws, legs, knees) and some objects have also been implanted in needy patients. The technique can have dental applications (crowns, bridges, stone models and a range of orthodontic appliances) and be used for the making of hearing aids and general medical devices. The bioprinting could be employed for the production of hearts, livers, kidneys and other types of human tissue. Tissues might also serve as models for research, drug discovery or production, eventually substituting longsome chemical synthesis processes.

A 3D-printed object is based on a pre-designed digital model and can perfectly fit patients’ anatomy and physiology. As the desired objects could be precise and customised, it has a great potential to democratise production.

But as this technology become more pervasive, new questions intertwined with RRI themes arise. This promising sector is already facing tremendous challenges with regards to managing safety and security issues and to the testing of efficacy levels. What could be the role of citizens in improving this process?

The SMART-map project will aim at finding some possible answers to this and more questions.

By involving 3D printing machine producers, software and services developers, advanced materials producers as well as civil society representatives, it will develop a 3D Printing SMART Map to fully exploit the potential of this promising technology.

The Industrial dialogues that will help develop the 3D Printing SMART Map took place in Munich (DE) and Milan (IT).


Learn more about medical applications for 3D printing from the voices of the Industrial Dialogues’ participants.

Brando Okolo, co-founder and CTO at Apium Additive Technologies GmbH, highlights some ecological concerns related to bioprinting. 


Salvatore Saldano from ShapeMode explains how additive manufacturing is being used to make personalised prosthesis.

3D printing in biomedicine is an interdisciplinary field and science education could cover many different aspects of this topic – Liliana Liverani, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (Munich Industrial Dialogue participant)


Marinella Levi from Politecnico di Milano provides an overview of the 3D printing sector in Italy.


Thanks to additive manufacturing now it is possible to easily obtain biomedical “objects” everywhere. According to Costantino Bongiorno, founder and OPENCARE project leader of WeMake (Milan’s Makerspace)


If you talk about RRI in 3D printing, the question about animal labs certainly pops up – Martin Herzmann, Materialise (Munich Industrial Dialogue participant)


Alberto Leardini from Istituto Ortopedico Rizzoli, president of IDBN (Italian Digital Biomanufacturing Network), explains how 3D printing has been applied to his field.



Project Coordination
prof. Francesco Lescai,
Aarhus University


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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for research and innovation, under grant agreement no. 710500