How Will 3D Printing Impact Medical Device Technology?

How Will 3D Printing Impact Medical Device Technology?

3d-printing-technology | Photo Courtesy of richardjsum http://www.flickr.com/photos/12115945@N00/5812248560/sizes/q/We are on the cusp of seeing some really amazing innovation and growth in 3D printing.

Innovations in 3D printing could increase efficiency in medical device technology, but don?t expect the human element to disappear anytime soon.

An article on the Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry website quotes futurist Thomas Frey, who says 2 billion jobs will vanish due to innovations in automation. That?s about half the jobs on the planet.

This is almost a doomsday prediction here. A total of 2 billion jobs lost would be huge, obviously. But a bright spot is the fact that ?the Internet created 2.6 jobs for each lost to technology-related efficiencies,? according to McKinsey & Company. Other technological innovations could have similar impacts on the workforce in the future.

Overall, the future does look bright for medical device manufacturers. While 3D printing could eventually replace some types of manufacturing, other types are just too intricate or complicated to be completely automated by 3D printing, especially in the medical device industry. Also, there will be many jobs replaced by people who are needed to sell and service these new 3D machines that may be used to replace manufacturing workers. And people will continue to drive medical device innovation.

Frey believes 3D printing has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing. His thinking is along the same lines as that of Chris Anderson, former editor-in-chief of ?Wired? magazine. Anderson has ?predicted that 3D printing will ultimately be more important than the Internet,? the Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry article notes, with applications in the medical field of tissue engineering, prosthetic limbs and potentially artificial organs. Frey says it could effect change in the manufacturing sector as much as Henry Ford?s assembly line.

That?s a pretty bold statement. Keep in mind that 3D printing technology has only been around for a few years. Perhaps at some point in the future, we?ll see a ?Star Trek?-style replicator system that can conjure up anything on demand, but don?t expect to see anything like that in the next 15 years.

Source: Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry, January 2013

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