3D printing or three-dimensional printing or additive manufacturing (AM) is a process used to synthesize a 3D or three-dimensional object. In this process, successive material layers are formed underneath the control of computer in order to develop a three-dimensional object. Such objects are manufactured with almost any geometry or shape and are created based on available digital 3D model data. There are various existing and upcoming applications of 3D printing. Some of these applications include medical, industrial, films, advertisements and stationary. Conventional production techniques rely on the subtractive method in which, the desired products are developed by drilling or cutting the base material. In 3D printing process, the desired products are built with layer-by-layer addition of materials. Thus, this process is also known as additive manufacturing. Although 3D printing is a type of additive manufacturing, the word is used synonymously for additive manufacturing in the global industry.
Growing requirements for a number of technological advancements in medical sector have supplemented the growth of 3D printing in different medical applications. 3D printing technology has helped medical industry to solve a plenty of issues. This technology has transformed healthcare industry by delivering number of 3D printed products such as surgical guides, surgical instruments, medical implants, and bioengineered products. Applications of 3D printing in medical industry are likely to grow at a noteworthy rate over the entire forecast period. This is mainly attributed to an upturn in need for inexpensive and quick resolutions for medical problems. Furthermore, growing investments in research and development of new innovative 3D printing technologies will also drive the 3D printing market in medical applications. However, lack of skilled professionals and unavailability of raw materials may hinder the demand for 3D printing technology in medical applications.
Three dimensional or 3D printing technologies assist medical researchers in manufacturing implants and medical surgical guides like orthopaedic, dental and cranio-maxillofacial. Also, 3D printed articles improve the overall efficiency of surgical apparatus by producing self-sterilizing medical surgical instruments. The production of such bio-models is completed by using different raw materials such as polymer, metals biological cells and ceramic. Such raw materials, when utilised with 3D printing methods such as laser beam melting (LBM), droplet deposition manufacturing (DDM), electron beam melting (EBM) and photo polymerization result in the production of different bio-models.
Since inception, 3D printing technology has evolved and revolutionized its production process year by year. Ever growing cost pressures for manufacturing of medical device and significant need to offer innovative products has pushed manufacturers to implement 3D printing as a way to decrease the production life cycle and near to eliminate the conventional prototyping process completely.
Based on geography, North America is the largest market for 3D printing for medical applications, presently. However, Europe is likely to witness highest compound annual growth, nearly two-digit, over next few years. This is mainly attributed to the growing funds from government for 3D printing in medical applications. Also, numerous mergers and acquisitions among various market participants to expand their technology reach and enhance their application areas are few of the key reasons for the growth of 3D printing in this region. Positive reimbursement policies available in the area are also likely to provide the desired impetus for 3D printing market growth in medical applications.
The 3D printing market in medical applications is mostly oligopolistic in nature and is dominated by the market participants such as Stratasys Inc., 3D System, EnvisionTEC GmbH, Materialise NV, and few others.