Razmara Nizak is a student of technical medicine. His thesis? Validate a new MRI protocol for patient-specific solutions in health care. In other words, he is trying to make the process of replacing knees and hips more efficient. To achieve this academic goal, Razmara is utilizing a revolutionary new technology to manufacture prototypes and experiment with different model sizes: an ORD Bot Quantum 3-D printer.
Unlimited Possibilities in Medicine
3-D printing technology is gaining momentum in health care. First invented in the 1980s, it was generally used for prototyping and manufacturing items in architecture, industrial design, aerospace, and civil engineering. In the past decade, the price of 3-D printers has dropped substantially, so 3-D printer owners can now offset their capital costs quickly. As a result, open-source 3-D printing “hubs” are becoming a mass market item. Today, 3-D printing is used cheaply and quickly, not just to develop prototypes, but as a reliable and customizable manufacturing resource.
Some categories of the health care industry where 3-D printing is being applied:
- Human Prosthetics
- Medical Devices
- Joint Replacement
- Human Tissues
In practice, 3-D printing has already seen great success with hearing aids, bone implants, and skin replacement. The dental industry, which often develops customized materials tailored specifically to meet patients’ needs, is also a major player in the 3-D printing arena.
Inventive Solutions Meeting Challenges
A 3-D printer works the same way as an inkjet printer. However, instead of layering ink onto paper, a 3-D printer uses superheated polymers and plastics to create something three-dimensional. One health organization in Haiti, which is still recovering from a devastating earthquake, is using 3-D printing to make a vital medical tool: umbilical cord clamps. In Haiti, 3-D printing technology is breaking down traditional barriers and demonstrating how potentially lifesaving items can be easily and quickly obtained, even in one of the world’s poorest countries.
Transforming Health Care Worldwide
Breakthrough technologies such as accessible 3-D printers have the potential to transform health care here in the US and around the globe. It’s not that difficult to imagine a day when 3-D printers are as ubiquitous as cell phones, and people can print out any health care device they need. There is a lot these machines can do. As prices drop further and further every year, the industry is switching to these printers from their more expensive industrial counterparts. Online markets are popping up where professionals and patients alike can customize and order 3-D-printed materials.
Why Razmara “Gets It”
Though Razmara is still a student, he already understands the potential benefits this technology carries for patients. “This print is a 3-D bone model of the knee—the femur and tibia—acquired after segmenting several MRI images. Based on this 3-D model, I can design patient specific cutting blocks which can be used by a surgeon during a knee replacement procedure. The surgeon can then use these cutting blocks as a tool to achieve a higher accuracy for the prosthesis placement,” he says. Razmara is onto something. A less accurate placement would cause misalignment and wear and tear of the prosthesis, potentially leading to another surgery down the road for the patient.
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