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Remember when two-sided copying used to impress us?

Nov 19, 2014 11:21AM ● Published by Cate Reynolds

Collated, two-sided, hole-punched and stapled copies were, not all that long ago, pretty remarkable feats. Boy, have times changed. Welcome to the world of 3-D printing. It is now possible to create an endless array of objects. Prototypes, of a new design by Jaguar for instance, can be made for pennies when it once took millions of dollars and months of time.

However, it’s the medical applications that interest us. A recent report suggests that the global 3-D printing market in medical applications will reach $965.5 million by 2019. The technology is already well on its way to replacing cadavers as a learning tool for medical professionals. The replicas are so accurate, surgeons can use them to “map” delicate surgeries. It can also be a life-saving diagnostic tool.

A conference is scheduled in December in Vienna, Austria, by the European Society of Cardiology and the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging (EACVI) and will include presentations on three-dimensional imaging, the main theme of the meeting. Professor Patrizio Lancellotti, EACVI president, says, “The heart is a 3-D structure that we traditionally analyzed using 2-D imaging. Now we can clearly evaluate the structure of the heart in different planes.” Imagine doctors having a perfect model of a diseased or damaged heart to help decide their course of action.

Printers are also being used to precisely duplicate medications, with the added ability of personal modifications to the formulas for specific patients—making medications available to very small groups. Other right-out-of-science-fiction applications on the drawing board include artificial skin (including ears and noses) for burn victims, blood vessels for bypass surgery, bones and cartilage, stem cells, and, ultimately, whole human organs themselves.

--Sarah Hagerty
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