Responding to the PPE shortages resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA has opened the door for 3D printing technology from a variety of sources to help fill the gap. Will this change 3D’s future role in medtech?
Up until recently, 3D printing in medtech was the classic example of an interesting technology in search of a broad application. Despite ever-increasing precision and ease-of-use, and decreasing cost, which has made it easier for a wide variety of individuals and institutions to acquire the machines, 3D printing in medtech is still largely being used for one-off projects such as custom maxillofacial and other types of implants in trauma and orthopedic cases, and for prototyping and design, not for wide-scale manufacturing. Larger-scale applicability was initially limited by a variety of factors, including the early materials used, which could be brittle and prone to shrinking, and the time-consuming nature of the process, although much of that is changing.