An interesting news story from the Huffington Post comments on 3D printers latest capability to “print” chemicals. While Professor Lee Cronin uses a $2000 3D printer, the idea of using a 3D printer to mix materials is a concept Objet has been exploring for some time to mix its custom materials. Objet, however, uses a multi-jet print head to precisely place droplets of material where the engineer wants in order to achieve specific properties, like tensile strength, flexibility, rigidity, and so on. (Click here for details on how Objet uses mult-jet printing.) I suspect the $2000 printer is extrusion based, so he’s not really mixing different powders together to create a new chemical compound.
As exciting as the idea of printing your own ibuprofen or other pharmaceutical might be, I doubt it will become a mainstream feature of 3D printers. The Food and Drug agencies will stop this from happening for individual use. And the regulations the FDA insists on for pharma are highly expensive and restrictive. That doesn’t mean that Pharma may not find a use for 3D printers in the research or even in manufacturing.