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3D printers and its use in healthcareEdit

Hello! This wiki is all about 3D printers and its use in healthcare. In this wiki, background info on 3D printers, its current uses, social and ethical issues, security and future use will be discussed.

Background InformationEdit

Although 3D printing has been around for a while, it is not till recent advances in technology that we have came to the realization of its benefits and many uses. For a quick introduction, I will start with defining what a 3D printer is. 3D printers are processes used to synthesize a 3D object in which successive layers of materials are formed under the control of a computer to create an object (Ventola).  Particularly with the emergence of 3D printers, it has had much benefit in the healthcare industry. However, like with any technology that has security concerns and others issues, so does the 3D printer.  I will be discussing the background behind the 3D printer and its uses in healthcare as well as the legal and ethical issues as well as security concerns that go along with it.

Current Uses Edit

To create a 3D object, it first starts with making a design of the object that someone wants to have. This design is made using a 3D modeling application. After creating the 3D model, it needs to be prepared to be able to print. This preparation stage is called slicing which involves “dividing the 3D model into hundreds or thousands of horizontal layers” and has to be done with a 3D software (Pîrjan). After this is completed, it is now ready to be able to go through the printer. This can be done by using a USB, SD card or through wifi. The 3D printer then creates the 3D object by looking at the slices and making them in three dimensional. In healthcare, 3D printers can be used to re-imagine medical imaging. By taking it up a notch from CT and MRI scans, 3d printers can make liquid plastic models to replicate organs to be used as practice for surgeries. The preciseness of the 3D printers would make it easier to understand the effect of drugs also if used on these printed cells first. According to studies from the University of Pennsylvania, 3D models can provide radiologists a clearer view of overlapping layers of breast tissue which can lead to early detection of cancer (Chakravorti).  Another use of 3D printers in the health field is that it can be used to replace tissues and organs. With over 121,000 people waiting for an organ transplant, to be able to print these organs instead seems unbelievable (Chakravorti). Not only would they be able to work better as they have been printed to be specific to the patient it can help so many people who die from waiting for a transplant as it takes much less time to print then it would to make it in the lab. Also, the customization of medicine can be very beneficial to the elderly and young by customizing the dose, size and flavor of the medicine (Chakravorti).  This would make them more compliant to have the medicine.

Security Aspects Edit

One of the things people tend to do is become blinded by the advantages that a piece of technology has and not look at the disadvantage of having that device. For 3D printers, this disadvantage has to do with security. Although 3D printers can be used for making objects with precision and can make things much more rapidly like synthetic skin, it can also be used to make stuff that can harm people. There is a lack of legislation and regulation in place regarding 3D printers at the moment because it is a fairly new which is why people could print out guns or other weapons or counterfeit parts for aircrafts or military. Therefore, that is one security risk that we face. Another security issue is related to food. If we are able to start printing out food, then there will be some issue regarding the safety of it. All of the food that we see in the grocery stores are regulated and approved by the FDA, however if people can start printing them then it could be a problem.

Ethical and Social Implications Edit

One concern is about the safety of these 3D printers. Specifically, in healthcare, the question of Who is going to test that the treatment is effective is a concern. Another concern is about the cost of the treatments. If only people who can pay the additional cost receive treatment, then what will those who do not have the money do. Does that mean they won’t be able to receive the effective treatment? Another concern is on human enhancement. If 3D printers can help make blood vessels and heart valves, what about bone? Is it ok to replace our bones with artificial ones that are stronger and flexible? What about muscle tissue that can become more resilient to tears? These are some ethical and social implications that rise when discussing 3D printers.

Future Use Edit

As the use of 3D printers become more familiarized in the healthcare industry, we are likely to see more customization of these medical objects pertaining to the patients specifically. Also, in the long run, using 3D printers will likely be more cost- effective as there wouldn’t be any wastes and would increase efficiency and productivity.

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