About a month ago, I was reading the news and stumbled upon an interesting report from CNN Tech — a robot can 3D print a building in just 14 hours.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created a robotic prototype that can 3D print the basic structure of a building. Called the “Digital Construction Platform,” the free-moving prototype has a large, robotic arm for reach and a smaller arm for dexterity. This impressive robot built a dome-like structure 50 feet in diameter and 12 feet high! When this innovative technology is further developed, it could allow for faster, cheaper and more adaptable building construction compared to traditional building methods of today.

As an innovative thinker myself, I applaud those who are helping to reshape their respective fields through technological innovation and outside-the-box thinking of 3D printing. The invention has heralded the arrival of many innovations that couldn’t be imagined, much less realized, before. Today, this technology has great potential in healthcare because of its customizable nature. With 3D printed face transplants, prosthetics, bones, blood vessels and more, there are plenty of opportunities for 3D printing to reshape the way we think about healthcare.

3D Printed Prosthetics

Living without an arm or a leg can be difficult for anyone. That’s why many people choose prosthetics to help provide a sense of normalcy in their day to day life. However, traditional prosthetics can be expensive and time-consuming to make — which can be a barrier to access.

3D printing has changed the game for prosthetics. This new technology has allowed prosthetic limbs to be produced faster and cheaper than ever before, meaning people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can have access to this technology.

3D Printed Blood Vessels

A group of researchers at the Regenerative Medicine Research Center of West China Hospital at Sichuan University successfully created 3D-printed blood vessels for monkeys. The synthetic blood vessels are made of stem cell-based organic material from the monkeys, called bioink, that imitate natural blood vessels. This encouraged new growth of cells needed to make a fully functioning blood vessel. Although this is a major breakthrough, it will still likely be years until technology can create 3D printed organs.

3D Printed Hyperelastic Bone

A recent development in synthetic material could be the next breakthrough in reconstructive surgery. Called hyperelastic bone, this 3D printed material is made from a mixture of a naturally occurring calcium mineral called hydroxyapatite and a polymer. Hyperelastic bone is appropriately named for its ability to be very flexible!  

“The first time that we actually 3D printed this material, we were very surprised to find that when we squeezed or deformed it, it bounced right back to its original shape,” said Ramille Shah, one of the developers of this material at Northwestern University.

Although this material hasn’t been tested in humans yet, it shows great promise with real world applications because it can support new bone growth or replace old bone matter.

Are there other innovations in 3D printing for healthcare I have missed? Let me know in the comments’ section!