3-D printing is projected to become big business. ZD Net predicts it will be a $1 billion dollar business by 2016. Medicine is likely to be a big player.
Research is progressing around the world in applications for 3-D image-making in creating human organs. China recently reported that they created a kidney and kept it going for four months. The UK and Us company Organvovo have teamed up to create human tissue.
“Part of the reason people are really excited about 3-D printing is that it gives you access to individual points everywhere inside a 3-D volume. You’re depositing single points of material to build up one layer at a time,” Dr. Jordan Miller, Assistant Professor at the Bioengineering Department at Rice University, tells KTRH News. He is world-renowned for his understanding in his field.
In an oversimplification of what is an enormously complex process, imagine this. Scientists create a gel-like substance to act as scaffolding. Then comes of layer of human cells. Another gel layer, another cell layer, and so on, until you have crafted the organ.
“What we think 3-D printing will allow us to do is get to the complexity of human anatomy, where we can’t do that by any other means,” says Miller.
Research now is focusing on making blood vessels, circulatory systems and tissues. Miller says the vision of what may be possible with 3-D printers in medicine won’t be realized for at least decades.