Editorials

How might 3D printing affect clinical practice?

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g7709 (Published 30 December 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g7709
  1. Mahiben Maruthappu, senior fellow,
  2. Bruce Keogh, national medical director
  1. 1NHS England, London SE1 6LH, UK
  1. Correspondence to: M Maruthappu Mahiben.maruthappu{at}nhs.net

Customised body parts have the potential to transform care

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the value of a three-dimensional printout could be considerable. 3D printing is starting to disrupt the manufacturing industry, from jewellery to firearms, rapid prototyping to motor racing components. Inevitably, it has now reached healthcare.1 Last year Craig Gerrand, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust, used computed tomography guided 3D printing to develop a titanium pelvis for a patient with chondrosarcoma.2 And doctors at University of Michigan’s Mott Children’s Hospital have implanted 3D printed plastic splints into the trachea of neonates to rectify tracheobronchomalacia.3

Stereolithography was originally described by Charles Hull in 1986, and the term 3D printing subsequently coined in 1990.4 It is an iterative, additive technology, translating a digital model into a solid object. Polymer thermoplastic, powder, or metal is selectively sprayed to manufacture an object layer by layer. The flexibility, tensile, and shear properties of the …

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