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.
All stakeholders within this field need to be brought in at various levels, including patients: patients have the right to know what kind of treatments they are receiving – Brando Okolo, Apium Additive Technologies GmbH (Munich Industrial Dialogue participant)
If you talk about RRI in 3D printing, the question about animal labs certainly pops up – Martin Herzmann, Materialise (Munich Industrial Dialogue participant)
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)