The 3d printing revolution came to medicine and is making people happy while scaring them at the same time!
3-D printing—the process of making a solid object of any shape from a digital model—has grown increasingly common in recent years, allowing doctors to craft customized devices like hearing aids, dental implants, and surgical instruments. For example, University of Michigan researchers last year used a 3-D laser printer to create an airway splint out of plastic particles. In another case, a patient had 75% of his skull replaced with a 3-D printed implant customized to fit his head. The 3d printing revolution came to medicine and is making people happy while scaring them at the same time!
Printed hearts? Doctors are getting there
FDA currently treats assesses 3-D printed medical devices and conventionally made products under the same guidelines, despite the different manufacturing methods involved. To receive device approval, manufacturers must prove that the device is equivalent to a product already on the market for the same use, or the device must undergo the process of attaining pre-market approval.
“We evaluate all devices, including any that utilize 3-D printing technology, for safety and effectiveness, and appropriate benefit and risk determination, regardless of the manufacturing technologies used,” FDA spokesperson Susan Laine said.
However, the approval process for 3-D printed devices could become complicated because the devices are manufactured differently and can be customizable. Two teams at the agency now are trying to determine how approval process should be tweaked to account for the changes: