3D printing has gained popularity as the cool do-it-yourself way to manufacture your own art pieces, knickknacks, and playthings. But the technology is capable of so much more—printing everything from food to housing to combat supplies—and it’s recently been making big strides in the world of medicine, too.
This past spring, Dutch brain surgeon Dr. Bon Verweij achieved a medical breakthrough when he performed the first operation using a 3D-printed skull. Verweij, a doctor at the University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht, successfully replaced a woman’s natural skull with a plastic one, relieving the pressure put on her brain from a condition that had thickened her bone structure and eventually caused her to lose vision. Within just a few months with the new 3D-printed plastic skull, the woman made a full recovery.
other 3D-printed medical materials, including organs and devices, is also advancing. For example, companies like mirOculus, whose co-founder Jorge Soto spoke at our June Techonomy Bio conference
, are using 3D printing to build state-of-the-art lab machinery on the cheap. In a quest to diagnose cancer earlier, Soto said, mirOculus 3D prints an inexpensive Arduino-based device that uses chemical reactions to identify certain microRNA patterns that might indicate disease.