Society, Technology and Self


SOC 2401

Spring 2016

3D Printing

3D printing is a technological innovation that has recently emerged in the field of medicine. The goal of this innovation is to enable medical practitioners to have an easy time in the production of medical devices. This has made work much easier for all health centers that ensure that every practice is efficiently done. Some of the examples that have led to the success of this technology include the invention of tracheal splints made of plastic as well as titanium used for replacing jaws and hips.

Chuck Hull is responsible for the invention of the 3D printing and it is dated to thirty years ago. It was first purchased in Amazon and before being spread to other countries, it was first used in the labs situated in Amazon. The printers officially came into the market in the early 1990s which was then used by the general public. It is reported that in the year 1981, a famous scientists; Hideo Kodama invented one of the 3D printer which was used to print plastic polymers three years before Chuck himself invented a stereo lithography process which entailed the extensive use of light to link polymers together.

The technology has been appreciated all over the world because apart from its efficiency, it is cost effective and produces products of high quality. Their small sizes also have a promising future because they intend to create more access to the technology thus enabling doctors to come up with ways in which they can personalize different procedures for their patients. There is a field which is closely related to the 3D printing and it is known as bio printing. In such a case unlike in 3D printing, the use of living cells are used instead of plastic or titanium ones. 3D printing has been found to work differently from other similar innovations in a number of unique ways. One way is in the production of implants and prothestics which are used during surgery and also applicable when the patient is recovering. It is also expected that customization of implants and prosthetics in future will be more efficient. The productivity of these products is also relatively high compared to other innovations because the product can take several hours for it completion. In other similar methods, the process is often longer than usual and it can even take several days and the product achieved is often of lower quality compared to those achieved from 3D printing. The printers are also so fast and they can be used for prototyping which results in reproduction of duplicate models and molds.These prototypes are therefore kept so that they can be used for further research when need arises. To add to this, the printers have been found to be reliable, accurate, efficient and the resolution is high.

3Dprinting is important for use now and especially in the near future and more specifically in the medical field. The rise of human bodily complications requires advanced medical care to arrive at the proper treatment of the patient. As a result of this 3D printing has been seen as the best avenue of serving the purpose. It is also expected that the innovation will change the pharmaceutical sector forever and in a positive way (Ventola 706). This is because with time, the 3D printing will create new opportunities for research and some applications in the biotechnology department. Lab technicians in hospital settings are advantaged to utilize the opportunity and research more on different types of drugs and more importantly on aesthetics. According to research, 3D printing is anticipated to positively influence the market in the year 2020 because at the moment, the technology is still at its infant stages although it’s been around more than twenty years. This means that the 3D printing will be used in almost all hospital settings even at clinics because they are cheap. Although printing a live tissue is not likely to happen anytime soon, scientists have reported that in the next 20-30 years, 3D printing will be successful in creating a fully functioning 3D heart.

The innovation is intended to be pocket friendly so that it is easily accessible to everyone despite their historical background. A number of these medical innovations are always very expensive leaving out those who cannot afford the treatment costs. This method is however cost effective because it deals with the production of cheap products and services. This is the reason why it is gradually growing and gaining stability in the medicine field. Printing costs are relatively low which means that all people regardless of their gender, ethnic clusters and socio-economic backgrounds can access the printers any time when necessary since the prices do not scare them off. People’s lives have also been improved since they can easily access the printers and download whatever they want (Ventola 707). This makes keeps them informed of any trending issue in the world. As a result of this, there has been a boom in the consumer use of the 3D printers in the market especially in the medical sector. Health has greatly improved because the study of cells makes it more convenient to know what defect a person has.

Despite the many positive impacts that 3D printers have come with, there have been a number of negative effects and controversies as well. The media is a major contribution of the controversies that the innovation is making. Media can sometimes exaggerate the existence of a certain technology even before it is already stable in the market. This leads to expectations which are often unrealistic and unachievable. A number of people view this incentive as a major contribution of unemployment in the health sector. This is because the availability of these machines means that only those who are well trained and skilled in the sector are the one to take part in the procedures. In such a case, there can be one expert in the whole hospital compared to the initial large number of lab technicians before the introduction of the printers. Some have also criticized that the duplicate prototypes created are not actually the same and they may have defects.

In conclusion, the use 3D printing in medicine will continue to evolve. It is a growing technological innovation can be used in different sectors such medicine, education or culinary. Although this innovation is still in the infant’s stages it has made a great impact across the world and will continue to do so.


Annotated Bibliography List

  1. Spectrum Health. (2015, June 26). 3-D heart printed using multiple imaging techniques: Echocardiography and CT combined to produce heart model.ScienceDaily.

Retrieved March 1, 2016 from

Congenital heart experts have successfully integrated two common imaging techniques to produce a three-dimensional anatomic model of a patient’s heart. This is the first time the integration of computed tomography (CT) and three-dimensional transesophageal echocardiography (3DTEE) has been used in this way. A proof-of-concept study also opens the way for these techniques to be used in combination with a third tool — magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

  1. University of Sheffield. (2015, February 23). 3D printed guides can help restore function in damaged nerves.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2016 from


Scientists have succeeded in using a 3-D printed guide to help nerves damaged in traumatic incidents repair themselves. The team used the device to repair nerve damage in animal models and say the method could help treat many types of traumatic injury.


  1. Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. (2013, June 18). Tiny batteries: 3-D printing could lead to miniaturized medical implants, compact electronics, tiny robots.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2016 from


Three-dimensional printing can now be used to print lithium-ion microbatteries the size of a grain of sand. The printed microbatteries could supply electricity to tiny devices in fields from medicine to communications, including many that have lingered on lab benches for lack of a battery small enough to fit the device, yet provide enough stored energy to power them.


  1. Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. (2015, January 29). 3D printing makes heart surgery safer for children.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2016 from


A cardiac surgeon in the United States recently used a 3D printed heart as a model to plan a life-saving procedure for his young patient. The 3D printed heart was used as a model to plan a life-saving procedure for the patient who was born with a rare, life-threatening cardiac defect.


  1. University of Michigan Health System. (2015, April 29). How babies’ lives were saved by 3-D printing.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2016 from

A new study reports outcomes for three boys who became among the first in the world to benefit from 3D printed devices that saved their lives.

  1. CSIRO Australia. (2015, September 11). Cancer patient receives 3-D printed ribs.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2016 from


After being diagnosed with a chest wall sarcoma, a 54-year-old Spanish man’s surgical team made the decision to remove his sternum and a portion of his rib cage and replace it with an implant. This cancer patient has now received a 3-D printed titanium sternum and rib implant.


  1. European Society of Cardiology. (2014, December 5). 3-D printed heart could reduce heart surgeries in children.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2016 from


Being able to practice on a model heart allows doctors to optimize the interventional procedure pre-operatively. 3-D models can also be used to discuss the intervention with the medical team, patients and, in the case of congenital heart defects, with parents. It helps everyone affected to better understand what the procedure will involve.


  1. IOP Publishing. (2015, May 27). 3D printing technique explored to help treat type 1 diabetes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2016 from

Researchers have explored how 3D printing can be used to help treat type 1 diabetes. The 3D printing technique, known as bioplotting, has taken researchers one step closer to being able to help patients who experience severe hypoglycaemic events, commonly known as ‘hypos’- a problem that affects about a third of people with type 1 diabetes.

  1. Brigham and Women’s Hospital. (2014, February 10). New advance in 3-D printing and tissue engineering technology.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 1, 2016 from

Researchers have introduced a unique micro-robotic technique to assemble the components of complex materials, the foundation of tissue engineering and 3-D printing.

  1. Ventola, Lee. Medical Applications for 3D Printing: Current and Projected Uses. Journal for Managed care and Hospitality Formulary Management. 2014 Oct; 39(10): 704–711.


  1. Northeastern University. (2015, November 3). Researchers develop 3-D printing method for creating patient-specific medical devices.ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 9, 2016 from


An innovative 3-D printing technology has been developed that could revolutionize important biomedical equipment, enhancing treatment for everyone from premature babies to patients needing implants



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