Of what use is additive manufacturing and 3D printing really? It’s a fair question and one that must be answered before this technology gains wider acceptance among designers, engineers, and executives. Materialise, a noted provider of software and 3D printing services, recently hosted a conference—the Materialise Experience—to offer thought-provoking presentations and industry insights into this technology. And to promote the use of this technology in a range of fields.
One presentation gave an unexpected reason on why use 3D printing. The reason was because 3D printing can reduce or eliminate fear.
The presentation was for the medical use of 3D printing, specifically in medical simulation. 3D printing is increasingly being used in this area—a market that is expected to reach $2.5B by 2022, a 14.9% rate of growth from now until 2022.
Boston Children’s Hospital is a user of medical simulation and has developed a program around it. Dr. Peter Weinstock’s presentation addressed the question of why use 3D printing? The answer was because it can eliminate fear.
3D printing allows health care professionals to “practice prior to game time.” It helps the surgery team move past a number of fears—fear of complexity, inefficiency, poor teamwork, incompetency, unpreparedness, lack of sleep, disorganization, and the unexpected. Simulation lets you fail without risk or consequence; a useful benefit in any industry.
3D printing can be used to make life-like, accurate reproductions of a patient’s anatomy enabling the surgical team to practice as often as necessary until they know what to expect and what to do about it. Such practice removes the fear of what could go wrong.
Consider the story of Todd, a child born with what appeared to be his brain outside his skull.
Todd’s parents were desperate to help their child. They went to several hospitals and no one really wanted to take on this surgery. Then they approached Boston Children’s Hospital. A surgeon put together a medical team and they used their 3D printing simulation lab to create a replica of Todd’s skull.
It wasn’t until hours of practice later that the head surgeon, in the middle of the last simulation, said for the parents to put their child on a plane to come for surgery.
Dr. Weinstock, who was the anesthesiologist for the surgery, thought the surgery would take 14 hours. It took four. He thought the child would be in ICU for a week. It was three days. The ability to practice, to simulate everything helped reduce surgical time, and helped speed recovery.
Simulation through 3D printing also makes reaching treatment consensus faster, which gets patients into surgeries more quickly and moving that much faster into healing.
The ability to simulate also helps patients and their families, giving them confidence in knowing what to expect and in seeing the preparedness of the surgical team.
As Dr. Weinstock noted, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is to be understood, and 3D printing makes this possible.”