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Running head: 3D PRINTING IN THE MEDICAL COMMUNITY

Literature Review
3D Printing in the Medical Community
Lorenzo Ramirez
University of Texas at El Paso
RWS 1302

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Abstract
3D printing has become a very valuable piece of technology in the medical community. My
research will touch on a number of topics and try to answer some questions I feel are important
to the use of 3D printing in the medical field. The questions I will be asking are (1) how is 3D
printing changing the medical world? (2) What are the ethical dilemmas facing 3D printing? (3)
What problems are facing 3D printing that can hinder its progress? (Cost, availability, etc...) (4)
Can 3D printing be made available to everyone? A survey was conducted although this was a
small survey only 8 participants some nurses and some doctors, this survey does not reflect the
ideas and feelings on this subject of the entire medical community. By answering this questions I
feel it can help us better understand this new technology that can better improve medical
procedures and wait times for many patients. Although a very promising technology at the same
time this same technology can also create new problems and challenge our ethical views on what
is right and wrong when it comes to improving or even saving someones life.

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Background
3D printing has become a very valuable tool to many business around the world. Auto
manufacturers, art students, tool makers, even food industries have all dabbled in this emerging
technology that has begun to give 3D printing a place among important innovations in the
technological world. One world in particular that has seen 3D printing become an important part
is the medical world. Even though 3D printing is still in its infancy, in the last couple of years it
has seen more improvement and use than when it was first invented back in the 80s by a man
named Chuck Hull. The goal of this paper is to answer some thought provoking questions about
3D printing technology, how it has affected the medical community, and how the medical
community is using this emerging technology to help improve the lives of many people.

How is 3D printing changing the medical community?


What are the ethical dilemmas facing 3D printing technology?
What problems or obstacles are challenging 3D printing?
Will the cost of 3D printing affect who is able to benefit from it?
This research paper aims to answer these four questions in hopes of shedding a little more

light on this new technology and just like with anything that can affect our lives our communities
we look to find out what are the drawbacks and benefits of 3D printing.
How is 3D printing changing the medical community?
3D printing is becoming a very valuable tool in the medical community. Its uses have
been beneficial in helping save lives and making lives easier for many people. Its biggest use for
many doctors or surgeons to be more specific is in two areas, organ reproduction and limb
replacement, of course there are many other uses that has made 3d printing a very valuable asset
to doctors. For example 3d printing has made it possible to cut down on surgery times for a lot of
complicated surgeries by allowing doctors to actually print out a 3d sculpture of the organ or

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section of the body they plan on working on, giving doctors a model they can actually practice
on before preforming the procedure on the actual patient. One case that demonstrates this benefit
from 3D printing was the case of two conjoined twins that were successfully separated thanks to
the technology of 3D printing. Doctors are familiar that this type of surgery is very risky.
According to the University of Maryland survival rates for conjoined twins are very low
because in many cases the twins share vital organs with one twin surviving 75% of the time.
(Molitch, 2015, para. 2). Because of the high risk involved in this type of surgery a team of
doctors turned to 3D printing to help them map out the body of the conjoined twins. The doctors
were able to print out a 3D model of the twins inside body taken from CT scans and upload those
scans to the 3d printer. This enabled the team of doctors to actual practice the procedure and pin
point where all the vital organs needed to be separated.
Not only are doctors able to print out 3d models of the human body to help them in
complex surgeries, but 3d printing can also to be used to print out or create new organs and limbs
for people who need them to make their lives better. First off 3D printing organs is still evolving
and still very new to the medical community but the possibilities are very promising. As with any
new invention or discovery, people want to take small steps before jumping into the unknown
especially when it comes to dealing with the lives of people. Right now doctors are able to print
out pieces of human organs to help them with various kinds of surgeries. The actual printing out
of a full functional organ, for example a kidney, is still in the works. Many tests still have to be
done to see if the human body would accept a printed out organ. If this is able to become
possible, imagine the lives that could be saved especially for those people on waiting lists for
organ transplants like hearts, livers, and kidneys. This would be a monumental step in the

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medical world. According to Griggs (2014), Then theres the hope that 3-D printers could
someday produce much needed organs for transplants (para.7).
Not only are doctors able to print out parts of organs and hopefully very soon full blown
functioning organs, but doctors and scientists have found a way to print out the intricate working
of the vascular network of an organ. According to Mesko (2014) To achieve this, the researchers
used an extremely advanced bio printer to fabricate tiny fibers, all interconnected, which would
represent the complex vascular structure of an organ. They coated the fibers with human organs3endothelial cells, and then covered it with a protein based material, rich in cells (para. 7).
Another positive that 3D printing has brought into the medical community is the ability to print
out prosthetic limbs. Doctors now have the technology to print parts or even full functional
prosthetic limbs. Before 3D printing came along artificial limbs were very expensive and didnt
function very well. Many were just bulky pieces of machines that looked very uncomfortable and
look nothing like a human limb (i.e. the hook for a hand).
Another major obstacle for people that were seeking to get an artificial limb was the cost.
Artificial limbs could cost thousands of dollars and some didnt even work very well. In an
article titled $50 3D Printed part replaces $42,000 medical prosthetic hand, a man named Jose
Delgado Jr. was born without most of his left hand. The prosthetic he had didnt work very well
and cost 42,000. Basically Mr. Delgado was very unhappy with his artificial limb, it wasnt until
professional 3D printer designer Jeremy Simon developed a prosthetic hand for Mr. Delgado
using a 3D printer and it only cost him $50. According to Huff (2015) Simon calls it the eNABLE Hand, and it only cost him about $50 to make, or about one-tenth of 1 percent of what
Delgado paid for his original hand from conventional medicine. And the best part about eNABLE is that it is move functional, grips better and is incredibly durable, something that

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Delgado isnt able to say about his other hand. (para. 4). 3D printing has been a valuable tool to
the medical community and to those that want to help others by reducing the cost of many of
these medical procedures. By reducing the costs many people have been able to afford the help
they need to improve or save their lives. Imagine not having to pay for several surgeries to repair
a hole in the human heart. What would have taken at least 3 surgeries, with the 3D printing
advantage, repairing a defect in the heart could only take one surgery and cost much less.
So 3D printing has made a huge contribution to the medical community and has helped it
advance further than many people would have thought. 3D printing has been a game changer and
has opened up new doors and given hope to many people with complex medical conditions like
missing limbs, and people waiting on transplants lists.
What are the ethical dilemmas facing 3D printing?
Even though 3D printing is a technology that the medical community has come to
embrace and hopes that it will continue to provide amazing results for a lot of the people that
could benefit from it, one has to ask is it possible to use 3D printing for unethical purposes?
Many people who have seen the endless possibilities 3D printing can provide to the medical
community have also seen that not only can it produce artificial limbs, human tissue, and even in
some cases working body parts, but 3D printing can also produce guns and some people have
even come up with a way to produce drugs and medicine, (Gilpin, 2014) A researcher at the
University of Glasglow created a prototype of a 3D "Chemputer" that makes drugs and medicine.
He wants to revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry by allowing patients to print their own
medicine with a chemical blueprint they get from the pharmacy.

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Anyone can buy a 3D printer today and the fear is soon anyone could use this technology
and start to print out items for their own personal use and possibly to sell on the black market.
3D printed organs is still a long way off but the technology is there, scientists just have to get the
formula right and soon 3d printed organs will become a reality. One ethical concern is that soon
people who might not be able to afford 3D printed organs or just cant wait on a waiting list to
receive an organ to save their live, will soon go out on their own to try to produce one
themselves at home of all places! People dont understand that a lot of the times when trying an
out a new medical procedure takes time to perfect, years it takes before the FDA can allow it to
be used on humans.
In a recent survey that was sent out to several nurses and doctors in the medical
community when asked if they thought some type of regulations should be imposed on 3D
printers 75% said yes that 3D printers should have some sort of regulation imposed on it and
25% said no. Just like any person that wants to buy a gun they need to go through a background
check and some other regulations that need to be met when purchasing a gun. It may sound silly
but if you think about it someone with a 3D printer could print out almost anything. For example
someone buys a 3D printer and starts to print out guns or when it does become possible maybe
print out full blown organs and sell them on the black market. Sounds like something out of a
Sci-Fi movie printing guns and organs. If you have played Call of Duty Advanced Warfare you
know that the soldiers use 3D printed guns for combat yes its a game but the idea is there. There
are videos on the internet showing 3D printed guns being used. So as you can see there are a
multitude of ethical problems that will come as the technology of 3D printing becomes more
advanced and is made more public.
What problems or obstacles are challenging 3D printing?

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Even though 3D printing seems promising in the medical community, the technology
itself has some challenges that it needs to overcome in order for it to be fully accepted not just in
the medical community but everywhere it can be used. First, one of the major obstacles that it
faces is cost. Many of the traditional companies that use traditional manufacturing methods still
dont see the cost effectiveness to using a 3D printer. The cost alone just to purchase a high end
printer that can be used in a large scale capacity can be very expensive. According to Advanced
Manufacturing Insight (2014) Prosumer is an emerging 3D printer class priced from $3,000 to
$5,000. The prosumer class is differentiating itself from the personal printer class by offering
superior printer performance, as well as an expanded selection of materials that allow it to
address more applications than personal 3D printers (The Role of Prosumer 3D Printers In
Medical/Dental Markets, par. 1). Also you have to think about the cost of buying the material
used for 3D printers which can also cost a pretty penny. 3D printers dont use regular ink, they
use a special kind of filament which in some markets can cost anywhere from $25-$45 for a
kilogram. At the lower end of the cost spectrum, for most consumers buying a 3D printer is not
that expensive but the quality is not that great. Another problem that can come out of this
technological wonder is the issue with intellectual property rights. One major obstacle that will
arise from all this is copyright infringement. Companies like Hasbro, or Toys R Us, even owners
of the Star Wars franchise worry about their designs being copied out there by consumers and
selling them for profit. For example anyone could print out a figurine design from Star Wars, say
like the Millennium Falcon and sell it on EBay for a nice profit and the buyer wouldnt know
they were buying a replica from some guy who made it in his garage. Erin Carson in her article
3D printing: Overcoming the legal and intellectual property issues gave an example of this
type of issue:

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(2014), In September, CNET reported on how Japanese video game developer Square Enix
asked Shapeways to take down Final Fantasy IV figurines designed by digital artist Joaquin
Baldwin, after popularity boomed, partly thanks to Reddit (Carson, 2014, par.8). So 3D printing
still has some bumps in the road ahead of it and many experts in the 3D printing industry are
trying to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.
Can 3D Printing be made available to everyone?
In a recent survey the question was asked Should 3D printing be
made available to everyone? This was asked as it pertained to the medical
community. 62.50% said yes and 37.50% said no. Another question was
asked Do you think 3D printing would benefit the medical community in El
Paso, TX? How? 100% said yes. Many of the answers had to do with cutting
wait times for a lot of patients having to go through complex surgeries like
skin grafts, organ repair, or bone replacement. A lot of these surgeries
usually take several hours to complete whereas with 3D printing that time
could be cut in half. A huge benefit would be for organ recipients waiting on a
donor list for replacement organs like hearts, kidneys, and livers. The
technology is not quite there yet but imagine as a doctor a patient comes in
for and organ transplant, lets say a heart, and instead of waiting for a donor
to be made available all the doctor would have to do is print a new heart.
That would save years of waiting and being able to save a patients life. Here
in the El Paso area a lot of the participants in the survey agreed that we
could benefit from that type of technology since we are a military town

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having a lot of soldiers that are amputees, being able to print out and build
prosthetic limbs. That would help soldiers get back to living a normal life and
would be a great medical advantage in this city instead of going to out of
town for that. Those that were against having 3D printing technology in
medicine be available to everyone fears that it might be too expensive for
some people and the tax payers would be the ones paying for other people
to have access to these types of procedures.
As the research of this paper demonstrates the 3d printing technology
for the medical community is a huge plus and has infinite possibilities that
can benefit many people. Although there are some bumps in the road and
some issues that need to be addressed both legally and ethically, 3D printing
can help the medical community become better for the many patients that
need complex surgeries and people on waiting lists for organ transplants, cut
the time it takes for complex surgeries, all of these and many more reasons
are why 3D printing are needed in the medical community.

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References
Advanced Manufacturing Insight (2014). Retrieved from:
http://advancedmanufacturinginsight.com/archived-articles/item/the-business-case-for3d-printing-in-the-medical-and-dental-sectors
Carson, Erin (2014, August 1). 3D printing: Overcoming the legal and intellectual property
issues. ZDNet. Retrieved from: http://www.zdnet.com/article/3d-printing-overcomingthe-legal-and-intellectual-property-issues/
Griggs, Brandon (2014, April 5). The next frontier in 3-D printing: Human organs. Retrieved
from: http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/03/tech/innovation/3-d-printing-human-organs/
Huff A. Ethan (2015, January 15). $50 3D-printed part replaces $42,000 medical prosthetic
hand.
http://www.naturalnews.com/048418_3D_printing_prosthetic_hand_medical_device.html
#
Macneal, David (2014, October 13). The Strange and Radical New World of 3D Printed Body
Parts. Wired Magazine, 22(10) np.
Mearian, Lucas (2014, January 29). Bio-printing human parts will spark ethical, regulatory
debate. Computerworld.
Molitch-Hou, Micheal (2015, February 27) Complex Separation of Conjoined Twins
Successfully Planned with 3D Printing. Retrieved from:
http://3dprintingindustry.com/2015/02/27/complex-separation-of-conjoined-twinssuccessfully-planned-with-3d-printing/

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Thompson, Cadie (2012, October 10). How 3D Printers are Reshaping Medicine. Retrieved
from: http://www.cnbc.com/id/49348354

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