3D printing — and the way it enables the on-demand creation of a variety of products — seems poised to disrupt manufactured consumer goods as home 3D printers become more common. But while that world appears to be off in the not-so-distant future, businesses in the present are already making use of this exciting new technology. There may be no industry more indicative of 3D printing’s potential than the medical industry, where companies are using it to build custom solutions for patients at a rapid clip.
Here are 9 companies making the most of 3D printing in the medical space:
“If you have to wear it all the time, it might as well look fabulous!” That’s the tagline for UNYQ’s Align brace, made for those suffering from scoliosis. The pronunciation of the company’s name embodies the products it uses 3D printing to custom build: unique. Each Align is made to fit one very specific person, ensuring top-notch comfort for the person wearing it. UNYQ also produces custom covers for prosthetics under its Armor brand, enabling both AK (above knee) and BK (below knee) amputees to choose one with the colorful design or pattern that best fits their personality.
Dr. Scholl’s may advertise as though it has the market cornered on insoles, but at the end of the day, it’s still assigning you one from a limited line of products. Wiivv takes advantage of 3D printing to custom-build an insole based on the measurements you enter in its corresponding mobile phone app. The insole you receive is, as the company states, “measured to the contours of your exact feet,” which means you’re getting an insole tailor made for you, not a bunch of other people. Wiivv also makes custom sandals, so you can remain comfortable whether you’re out for a run or out at the beach.
Using 3D digital scanning along with 3D printing, Metamason’s mission is to offer a wide range of custom medical products that offer a comfortable, one-of-a-kind fit. The company’s focus as the moment is its 3D Mask, a CPAP mask made for sufferers of sleep apnea. These masks are worn by sleep apnea patients at night to help keep airways open and to assist breathing, which provides more restful sleep. A more snug, personalized fit helps patients spend less time fiddling with their masks so they can fall asleep more naturally. “Every human body is unique,” says Metamason, and the company seems determined to serve each and every one.
Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) affect more than 150,000 patients in the United States every single year. Of those, around 65,000 will have to undergo surgery for repairs. The standard repair treatment is called EVAR (endovascular aneurysm repair), but here’s the problem: 40% of patients who need the procedure can’t use what Aortica calls “standard EVAR devices,” so they have to have more risky surgeries instead. Aortica creates custom 3D printed stents designed to be used in conjunction with its “AortaFit” system, resulting in less invasive, less risky, and more personalized treatments of AAA in patients.
When it comes to surgery, the planning stage can be every bit as crucial as the procedure itself. That’s where BIOMODEX gets its tagline, “Predicting for Success,” and gives you a good reason to care about the products it creates. BIOMODEX uses patient medical images to create “life-like 3D printed replicas of patient anatomy,” which gives surgeons a good look at what they’ll be seeing inside the actual patient before a surgery takes place. It’s a fascinating idea made possible by the fast, on-demand nature of 3D printing: a practice exam, of sorts, for those who will have a life in their hands when a real procedure gets underway.
If you’ve watched TV anytime in the last twenty years, you’re likely aware that “invisible aligners” aren’t exactly a brand new invention. They’re essentially braces without the braces — dental products made to help straighten teeth in much the same way without the metal wires and brackets or the constant need for orthodontic visits. What’s fascinating is how 3D printing is transforming this industry, with DentoSmile at the forefront. Invisible aligners can now be manufactured more quickly with more accurate results. And because invisible aligners aren’t braces, they can be prescribed by a surgeon-dentist, which means you don’t have to go anywhere near an orthodontist at all.
It’s tough to think of an implant that wouldn’t need to be custom and personalized to suit one particular person. 3D printing has opened the door for implants to be quickly produced for a number of use cases, and Anatomics is right there helping patients restore what they might have lost. The company specializes in cranial implants (built using data from CT scans) and facial implants designed to correct defects and provide augmentations.
Unlike the other companies on this list, Conceptualiz isn’t about creating 3D printed products to assist medical patients; rather, the company is behind the development of low-cost 3D printing software for the medical industry. Conceptualiz currently offers one app: Ossa 3D, which helps orthopedic surgeons “design and 3D print implants right in their office,” according to an article by the Herald. The company also plans to offer another app, called SickBay, in the very near future.
“We’re interested in making hands which are not trying to be invisible.” That line, from Po’s website, tells you everything you need to know about what the company does and how it approaches the prosthetics it creates. Po uses 3D printing technology to make unique, personality-filled prosthetic hands and does so economically. According to Po, the company can manufacture 100 3D printed hands for what one traditional prosthetic hand would cost. Prosthetics are fairly expensive, and Po is blazing a trail for more upper-limb amputees to get a hand — and a piece of their life — back.