Being in oblivion for almost three decades, 3D printing has recently garnered much limelight in the medical industry owing to its immense potential for growth. The opportunities offered by the market were analyzed in a recent RNCOS study which forecasted the 3D industry to grow at CAGR of around 22% from 2012 to reach a value of US$ 3.4 Billion in 2017. Currently, the medical and life sciences sector accounts for only a marginal share of about 15% in the total 3D printing industry, substantiating the prospects of growth in the industry.
The simple process of 3D printing involves manufacturing by addition of raw materials layer by layer and generation of a CAD file which instructs the 3D printer to build the desired product. The technology finds an enormous scope in the field of life sciences, most prominently in the manufacture of dentures and prosthetic limbs where it offers the advantages of improved comfort, accuracy and reduction of overall medical costs. However, immense potential lies in comparatively less explored areas of Drug R&D and the lucrative and underdeveloped market of tissue engineering where it can serve to fill the wide gap between demand and supply.
Contemplating on the upsurge of the use of 3D technology in life science industry, Shushmul Maheshwari, Chief Executive, RNCOS said that Players in the industry need to focus on two aspects. First, they should try to provide viable solutions and cater to the ever increasing demand from consumers for direct digital manufacturing. Second, while generating revenue and maintaining profits, a considerable amount of revenue should be utilized to invest in R&D to increase the usability of the technology in the medical field. Collaborations with research institutes with an eye on federal funds can be a positive move in the direction.
Breakthroughs in the field are increasing in frequency. Market players are forming collaborations with leading research centers and universities to work on a feasible solution and tap the promising market. Since presently the field is only at a research stage, in the next 15-20 years the technology is anticipated to become a common practice in the life science industry reducing the organ demand-supply gap. With decreasing cost of 3D printer and its increasing affordability, it is expected that the trend of having an in-house 3D printer will soon catch up.
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