In the ever-evolving healthcare landscape, 3D printing has emerged as a transformative force, pushing the boundaries of innovation and patient care. These are the trends we anticipate seeing emerge or improve in 2024.  

Patient-Specific Implants and Prosthetics

GlobalData predicts that medical 3D printing will have a 21% compound annual growth rate by 2026 due to its customization, lower production costs, and quick turnarounds, while also allowing for more intricate structure designs.  

Whether it’s a titanium hip implant or a perfectly fitted prosthetic limb, 3D printing is going to allow to more easily create customized medical devices tailored to everyone’s unique anatomy.  

Thus far, we’ve seen a lot of success in orthopedics using 3D printing. The devices that are currently on the market include craniofacial implants, acetabular cups, knee implants, and spinal cages.   

Bioprinting for Tissue and Organ Transplants

There is immense potential for creating functional organs with 3D bioprinting technology that will help reduce the wait times and improve the chance of success from using live cells directly from the patient. 

For the medical industry, this would mean not having to depend on donors! While the pace is slow, several projects have shown success. Researchers in Poland bio-printed a functional pancreas prototype with stable blood flow in pigs.   

At Wake Forest University School of Medicine, scientists have created a mobile skin bioprinting system that allows bi-layered skin to be printed directly into a wound.  

Surgical Planning and Training

Surgeons can now utilize accurate 3D-printed models of a patient’s anatomy to plan complex procedures, improving preoperative visualization and reducing the risk of errors.  

Additionally, 3D-printed surgical simulators provide a hands-on training experience for medical professionals, allowing them to refine their skills in a risk-free environment.  

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders (Zhang, 2022) published a trial that compared the outcomes of a clavicular fracture repair performed by experienced and inexperienced surgeons who used 3D printed models vs CT scans. They found that there was no difference in the experienced surgeons, but the inexperienced surgeons who used 3D printed models performed better than those who used CT scans.  

Pharmaceutical Printing for Personalized Medications

The main benefit of using 3D printing technology for personalized pharmaceuticals is that it allows companies to produce smaller batches with carefully tailored dosages, shapes, sizes and release characteristics.  

For pharmaceutical companies, 3D printing can significantly reduce costs, waste, and help increase their sustainability. To date, there has been minimal adoption of this technology but there are a lot of opportunities!  

Remote 3D Printing for Global Healthcare Access

The ability to remotely print medical supplies and devices is an emerging trend that has gained traction in a short amount of time. According to a Statista report, in 2019, 113 hospitals had in-house 3D printing facilities compared to only three hospitals in 2010.  

This could create a lot of possibilities for access to medical equipment in remote or underserved areas, helping to address supply chain challenges and improve healthcare infrastructure worldwide.  

As new technologies, materials, and needs arise, we’re going to continue seeing more innovation and adoption of 3D printing in the healthcare and medical industry. Staying ahead of the emerging trends healthcare and medical companies can harness the power of 3D printing to usher in a new era.