While most of the headlines are dedicated to nanotechnology and the latest gadgets, I’ve recently seen a flurry of 3D printing application articles. Obviously, given my background and career, this has piqued my interest. But what I really find fascinating is the “What’s Next?” factor of 3D printing. When you think about it, the technology was really developed for a specific goal: to aid in the rapid prototyping for manufacturing. But creativity and ingenuity knows no bounds, and it’s unbelievable to see the multitude of applications that are advancing with 3D printing.
One industry that has taken advantage of the concepts of 3D printing is the bio-medical field. There, we have seen dentists printing impeccable replacement teeth and orthopedic surgeons creating custom knee implants. And while these advances are thrilling, still others are asking the quintessential question: What’s Next?
Nicole Edine of the Huffington Post researched a team comprised of a biomedical engineer and trachea specialist from the University of Michigan that was able to create a 3D printed flexible splint (pictured above) that saved the life of a 16-month-old baby. Born with a rare condition called tracheobronchomalacia, baby Garret’s windpipe was comprised of weak cartilage that would inhibit breathing. The team designed a splint that could hold open Garret’s windpipe until his cartilage was strong enough. At that point, the splint’s biopolymer material would safely dissolve. The success of this procedure is encouraging to the advancement of the process of building computer-designed 3D models from biologically safe, flexible materials. The complete article can be found here.
I plan on dedicating a few blog posts each month to these new applications and uses for 3D printing. We’ll highlight new technologies that are only possible through 3D printing and other creative uses for the rapidly evolving technology. If you see, or know, or are working on anything that you would like featured here, please send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to exploring this ever-expanding new landscape with you.