The effects of 3D printing

Even though the technology for 3D printing has been around since the early ‘80s, the method’s popularity and practical uses have only just begun to take shape. Commercial printing, in particular, has only emerged comparatively recently, becoming commercially viable in 2009, making the technique more accessible and useful for scientists and researchers.

In just those seven short years, we can already see how much progress has been made because of 3D printing. From rare car parts to hearing aids to countless other applications, 3D printing has enjoyed great success in the creation of customized or complicated pieces.

What can we expect for the next wave of 3D printing?

First, let’s turn to the Web of ScienceTM. With a simple subject search on “3D printing,” we can quickly see that more than 5,000 articles have been indexed in the Core Collection, with the largest concentration of publications appearing in the last three years. We can also see that, although 2016 is only about half over, the year’s publications to date on 3D printing have already doubled the 2013 total. 

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In all, those publications have been cited thousands of times, with the 2016 year-to-date total of 6,000 citations certain to surpass 2015’s mark of 8,000 by year’s end. 

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So, what can we take from that? The biggest trend we can expect to continue to grow in 2016 is the 3D printing of body parts and tissues. Earlier this year, doctors from Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine successfully printed living tissue and organs that were implanted in animals, and the team members believe they now have the ability create human-size organs.

Creating a new era for pharmaceuticals

3D printing has the potential to transform the pharmaceutical experience by enabling printing on demand with personalized doses and shapes. As the pharmaceutical field is shifting from mass manufacture toward personalized medicine, 3D printing could play a key role in accelerating this change.  Could 3D printing replace drug manufacturing? How else will 3D manufacturing turn drug production upside down?

3D printing allows researchers to materialize their ideas in the creation of prototypes and 3D modeling. With 3D printers becoming more available, the ability to quickly create realistic models makes the lab more efficient and responsive. While these researchers are propelling discovery in their fields, they are also contributing to the ongoing development of 3D printers.