From its humble beginnings in the late 1980s, through to the global force that it is today, the capabilities of 3D printing technology have expanded dramatically. Conferring advantages such as shorter lead times, reduced waste and opportunity for mass customisation, the potential of 3D printing has gone from strength to strength since. One of the key industries to have successfully leveraged these advantages is the medical and dental industry. In the IDTechEx Research report, 3D Printing in the Medical and Dental Industry 2019 – 2029, 3D printing in the medical and dental industry is forecast to be worth over $8.1 billion by 2029.
3D printing allows the production of a wide range of medical devices such as hearing aids to prosthetic limbs. Use of generative manufacturing printing in these applications leverage its ability for mass customization from 3D imaging data. Personalization is particularly important to medical devices designed to be worn by the patient for extended time, as this improves patient comfort, and with that, adherence to the treatment.
According to IdTechEx Research, no manufacturing process in the medical sector has been as disrupted by 3D printing as that of the hearing aid. 3D printed hearing aids are made with digital precision, an improvement over the lengthy hand-crafting process that sometimes resulted in pieces that were not perfectly fitted and extremely expensive. This is important where less than a millimetre of difference can lead to discomfort for the wearer. Thus, adoption of 3D printing has not only streamlined but also enhanced the manufacturing process.