3D printing has evolved into something more than just a novelty innovation of technology. The real-world applications of 3D printing are endless. From the world of art to that of prosthetic 3D printing, it has revolutionized the world of prosthesis.
In today’s world, 3D printing significantly influences medicine and prosthetic devices due to its ability to handle and develop complex designs in a cost-effective manner that is faster than other traditional methods.
How Prosthetic 3D Printing been Revolutionized
In the world of rehabilitative medicine, 3D printing has taken over to solve a very particular problem that has been historically difficult to resolve; prosthetics. According to the NGO “LIMBS,” a mere 5% of the nearly 40 million amputees have access to prosthetic devices or assistance in the developing world. However, according to The World Health Organization (WHO), this percentage sits at a slightly higher 10%, which presents a dire situation for amputees worldwide.
Implementing 3D printing to create prosthetics has created a fresh wave of evolution. Previously, wax sculpting was the prominent method, which demanded great skill and could be time-consuming. However, since the dawn of 3D printing, rapid prototyping (RP) systems allow these hurdles to be overcome using a highly customizable 3D printed prosthesis.
By using 3D designs obtained from scanning, the prosthesis can be 3D printed to restore any form of defects. This approach is relatively cheap, quick, and does not require a high level of non-medical training. 3D printing at the helm of prosthetics ensures greater precision in design, and the result is a prosthesis that fits better and is more comfortable for the patients. An added benefit is that we can develop the prosthesis on the same day as the scan.
Using this new technology requires special training since it is relatively new. The high precision and accuracy of this new technology have made this innovative technique popular.
How 3D Printing is Applied in Facial Reconstruction
This technology’s application for facial reconstruction primarily focuses on four aspects.
- This prosthesis can be used to virtually plan and print pre-contoured anatomically sound structures that can improve surgical outcomes and drastically reduce operating time.
- Professionals can use it to create highly accurate anatomically sound models. These models can be used to conduct preoperative planning and maintain postoperative facial contour symmetry. This makes it incredibly useful in reconstructing nasal, mandibular, or maxillary defects. This results in improved treatment options and subsequently enhanced treatment outcomes.
- Patients suffering from any form of significant deformation, asymmetry, or scarring can utilize this prosthesis, which can significantly enhance an individual’s aesthetic and psychological status.
- The use of imitation 3D printed models to enhance surgical education at every level.
However, just like any technological advancement, certain limitations exist. Despite the constant decrease in operating costs of 3D technology, it still remains inaccessible to most. The accuracy of the 3D models remains high; however, it is still a challenge to be an all-around substitute for human tissue. The materials used in 3D printing are also generally not as durable as materials used in other methods. These printers often use polylactic acid, which provides the benefit of being lightweight. Still, it comes with the caveat of being structurally weak.
Most service providers provide prosthetics rehabilitation for a variety of conditions, including:
- Head and neck deformities
- Complications from cancer treatment like the effects of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
- Congenital disabilities (congenital disabilities) such as microcephaly (when some parts of the patient’s face do not form correctly).
- Traumatic injuries in the head or neck.
With the advancement of the 3D-generated prosthesis, it has become easier to replace missing or damaged structures in the patient’s head, face, and neck. A maxillofacial prosthesis is an appropriate solution if the patient exhibits any difficulty speaking, eating, chewing, or swallowing. Working closely with a therapist can help patients achieve better function and appearance.
Since the dawn of prosthetic 3D printing, it has brought hope to millions of patients worldwide. The process is relatively low-risk and can aid patients belonging to budget-strapped developing regions of the world. The technology is still growing, and it can have increased efficiency and safety while being relatively cheap, making it the primary treatment option for many around the world.