3D printing: moving from case study to common practice

Katherine Stephenson kstephenson@stanford.edu


While almost any clinician or engineer can recall a case study in the last five years that highlights a remarkable application of additive manufacturing to a medical challenge, far fewer would be able to accurately discuss how and how soon such technology would be translated into the standard of care. This is because the technology has reached a pivotal point in its development. Thus far, the efforts to advance medical 3d printing have focused on the highly technical challenges of imaging conversion, fabrication techniques and biocompatible materials. While challenging and expensive, highly skilled multidisciplinary teams have achieved remarkable results with the technology. However, the high level of expertise, extensive documentation and oversight required by these individual cases is unsupportable on the scale necessary to change universal medical practice.

The next stage of development towards this end will require resolving an equally challenging but perhaps less well defined set of challenges. These include the development of an effective regulatory policy for custom devices, automation and streamlining of tasks currently performed by highly skilled technical professionals, identifying applications where the technology applies clear value (as well as where it does not) and educating medically trained professionals in the engineering skills necessary to apply the technology effectively within their own practice. This presentation will present the current state of research efforts working to resolve these four challenges.

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