Medical Devices

3D Printing of Medical Devices

Overview

3D printing is a type of additive manufacturing. There are several types of additive manufacturing, but the terms 3D printing and additive manufacturing are often used interchangeably. Here we will refer to both as 3D printing for simplicity.

3D printing is a process that creates a three-dimensional object by building successive layers of raw material. Each new layer is attached to the previous one until the object is complete. Objects are produced from a digital 3D file, such as a computer-aided design (CAD) drawing or a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI).

The flexibility of 3D printing allows designers to make changes easily without the need to set up additional equipment or tools. It also enables manufacturers to create devices matched to a patient’s anatomy (patient-specific devices) or devices with very complex internal structures. These capabilities have sparked huge interest in 3D printing of medical devices and other products, including food, household items, and automotive parts.
 

Examples of 3D printed devices.3D printed (left to right, top) models of a brain, blood vessel, surgical guide, and (bottom) medallion printed on FDA 3D printers.

Medical devices produced by 3D printing include orthopedic and cranial implants, surgical instruments, dental restorations such as crowns, and external prosthetics.

Due to its versatility, 3D printing has medical applications in:

 Medical device manufacturers should refer to FDA guidance documents and Quality Systems regulations for more information on specific applications.

Additional Resources

Page Last Updated: 01/10/2017
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