3D printing tech tipped as key for medical industry

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The market for 3D-printed medical devices and pharmaceuticals is expected to exceed $8.1 billion by 2029.

This is according to the 3D Printing in the Medical and Dental Industry 2019-2029 report, compiled by UK-based research firm IDTechEx, which has found this market to be rapidly growing, with compound annual growth rates of up to 18% in certain sub-segments.

The firm says 3D printing is disrupting the way personalised medicine is provided, allowing the production of a wide range of devices, such as hearing aids, Invisalign aligners and prosthetic limbs, which are tailored to meet the specific needs of the patient while adhering to a narrow regulatory framework.

“3D printing in dentistry is one such high-growth market, and one of the most high-profile dental products to be manufactured by 3D printing is the Invisalign transparent orthodontic aligners. The Invisalign product is designed to be aesthetically appealing, particularly to adult patients who wish to minimise the appearance of orthodontic appliances. Moreover, as a removable device, the patient has no difficulty with eating, and oral hygiene is simplified,” it states.

While these devices may not be suitable to treat every patient, the report indicates, they have been used to treat almost six million patients around the world.

According to IDTechEx, 3D printing also enables affordable prosthetics for growing children. “An inspiring movement to emerge is the use of 3D printing to create affordable prosthetics for children. Traditional prosthetics can cost between $5 000 and $50 000, and provide an insurmountable financial challenge for parents, as children require a new prosthetic every few months.

“Charitable organisations such as e-NABLE are using 3D printing to create hands and arms from open source designs to relieve this burden from parents around the world. Not only are the prosthetics affordable, but the lead times are decreased relative to the lengthy customisation process of traditional prosthetics.”

Overall, IDTechEx estimates the global market for 3D printing equipment, materials, software and services to be worth $31 billion by the year 2029.

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