Dr. Hab. Eng. Filip Górski from Poznań University of Technology stated that 3D printing in medicine is no longer just an abstract concept and is increasingly gaining popularity. According to his predictions, this technology is expected to become more widespread in healthcare in the coming years.
“The technology of 3D printing is not yet a widely popular method in healthcare. For example, if someone were to experience an unfortunate event, such as a limb fracture, the chances of receiving a 3D-printed orthosis or brace are still relatively low. The same goes for surgical procedures,” said Dr. Hab. Eng. Filip Górski in an interview with PAP.
He added that despite these limitations, 3D printing technology is gaining popularity, especially in Western Europe. He stated, “A lot is happening in terms of clinical implementation and patient applications in our country as well. 3D printing in medicine is no longer an abstract concept and is beginning to gain popularity. According to our predictions, a breakthrough will likely occur in the next few years, and this technology will find its way into healthcare institutions, at least initially in private facilities. Later, it will probably become part of widespread healthcare.”
In his view, 3D printing technology can be applied in various medical specialties. He explained, “Currently, we can distinguish several groups. The first includes external products for patients, such as braces, orthoses, and prostheses. This is an area in which my team and I are involved. We use 3D scanning to create prosthetic replacements for limbs, or even for individuals who have undergone amputations. We also manufacture supportive or corrective orthoses for conditions like fractures or long-term disorders such as cerebral palsy. These items are relatively easy to produce using low-cost 3D printers and polymers.”
“More complex, but increasingly used, are intraoperative and preoperative aids. These include 3D-printed fragments of cartilage, bone, or templates to assist surgeons before or during surgery. These can also be produced from polymers, sterilized, and taken into the operating room. The most significant challenge is the direct 3D printing of customized ‘made-to-measure’ implants, typically using metallic materials,” he noted.
When asked about the obstacles to widespread adoption of this technology in healthcare, Dr. Górski emphasized that patient concerns are not the primary issue. “From our research, it appears that patients are generally enthusiastic about 3D printing technology, especially when they learn that the products are personalized. This is the greatest advantage of this technology: creating entirely anatomically individualized products for specific patients. Personalized medicine is always preferable to off-the-shelf products, and patients are quite enthusiastic about it,” he emphasized.
He continued, “Challenges, of course, exist, such as costs. Manufacturing metallic implants involves significant expenses, including the purchase of machines, which can cost around a million euros, as well as material costs. The certification issue is also a significant challenge, involving bureaucratic processes related to how these products should be classified. There are also organizational problems associated with the widespread adoption of this technology. It is easier to promote IT solutions in healthcare, while approaches that involve the production of items in hospitals or on-demand for hospitals in an ongoing fashion, such as this technology, are still in the process of development.”
Dr. Górski pointed out that such solutions have not yet been fully developed in other countries either. He suggested that a model for this approach may need to be developed, whether through 3D printing at the patient’s bedside, where a 3D printing machine would be located in the hospital, or through specialized companies that serve hospitals and supply them with products, similar to what currently happens with standard medical devices.
“Undoubtedly, in the coming years, our entire community of biomedical engineers will be focusing on organizing this process because, for the most part, the technology is almost ready for clinical implementation in many aspects,” he concluded.
In the expert’s opinion, the widespread use of 3D printing in medicine is not a distant future. “It has been only a decade since these technologies were practically first used in medicine. So, I believe it will be another decade. I try to remain optimistic in this regard,” he said.
A two-day Biomedical Engineering Conference has been underway at Poznań University of Technology since Thursday. Among the topics discussed during the event are issues related to 3D printing in orthopedics, medical diagnostics, artificial intelligence, and tissue engineering.
The “Nauka w Polsce” service is one of the media partners of the conference. (PAP)
By Anna Jowsa