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The technology is providing cutting-edge solutions for all types of procedures, from implants to prosthetics.
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1. Implants: A new research project between St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, the University of Technology Sydney, RMIT University and the Australian government is hoping to develop “just-in-time” implants, whereby patients undergoing treatment for bone cancer can receive a 3D-printed implant to replace an area affected by a tumour.
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2. Medication: Medications can now be printed using 3D technology. Spritam, an oral drug used in the treatment of epilepsy, became the first 3D-printed medicine to receive FDA approval in the US in 2016. The “printing” allows the pill to be built up by layers of powder, and allows doctors to prescribe a formulation that delivers the exact dose to their patients.
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3. Prosthetics: International aid charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has begun using an Ultimaker Three printer in its operations in the refugee camps in northern Jordan, which house more than 100,000 Syrians displaced in the ongoing conflict. Doctors at the Amman Surgical Reconstruction Hospital are using it to make custom-fitted prosthetics.
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4. Biomaterials: 3D printing is helping to create biomedical “scaffolds” in the field of tissue engineering. This means that human skin can now be printed based on specific human data. Researchers at A*Star’s Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology and Nanyang Technological University have even found a way to create pigmentation in 3D-printed skin.
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5. Cancer research: British scientists have now developed 3D printing to help create exact replica models of cancerous body parts which will, it is hoped, enable doctors to target tumours more precisely. Glenn Flux at the Institute of Cancer Research in London says accurate models can help doctors fine-tune dosing and monitor growth.