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Biomaterials


New dimensions for 3D printing


In the booming market for implanted devices, 3D printing is an increasingly popular fabrication method, but researchers are looking beyond its cost-efficiency and speed to see how it can help create devices that perform better inside the body. Atieh Moridi of Cornell University and Amit Bandyopadhyay of Washington State University tell Jim Banks how 3D printing is redefining biocompatibility.


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n industries of all kinds, 3D printing has revolutionised many manufacturing processes by enabling faster fabrication and more intricate designs. The medical sector is no exception, but it must consider a host of factors that other industries do not. Chief among these is biocompatibility. Creating a device that performs safely and effectively inside the human body, be it a hip replacement or a pacemaker, means that both the design and the properties of the material must fit perfectly with the body’s internal biology. There is no stopping the rise of 3D printing, so refining its capabilities for medical devices is a high priority. “Back in 2001, we were talking about 3D printing porous metal coatings for implanted medical devices


Medical Device Developments / www.nsmedicaldevices.com


and people were telling us not to bother, because 3D printing would never achieve the required strength,” says Professor Amit Bandyopadhyay of the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University. “Now, everyone is interested in it.”


In the US, the FDA approved 3D printing for medical devices back in 2013, and it is now used to manufacture more than 100,000 implanted devices each year. The US implantable medical devices market was also estimated to be worth $73.9bn in 2018, according to one Transparency Market Research report, with orthopaedic implants the single largest category. The market for active implantable medical devices, however – including


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