3D Printing is Transforming Healthcare Worldwide

Growing demand for patient-specific products in orthopaedics, dental, and maxillofacial surgery, may have started to reject the traditional “few sizes fit all” philosophy that may result in mismatched sizes—leading to complications such as post-operative pain, implant failure, and infection.

With the advent of 3D printing, an implant can be tailor-made to the exact shape required by an individual—ensuring a greater degree of fit and function – making 3D printing the most “impactful” technology in healthcare today. While doctors and patients celebrate its success and find more influencing methods, the way it influences the market is astonishing.

3D Printing Market is Heating Up Globally

The market for 3D printing in healthcare is growing at a rate little shy of 30 percent globally. This translates into the market tripling in size over the next 3 years from 2015 levels.

Not surprising the top regions adoption 3D printing in Healthcare application are North America and Europe with close to 60 percent market share. These regions were the early adopters of 3D CAD, which provides the necessary fuel for 3D printing today.

Among the countries, the US emerges at the very top being home to several large companies in this industry. Germany and the UK are the next big adopters of additive manufacturing / 3D printing technology with significant investments from the private sector and a keen interest from the government to develop this industry.

Back home in Asia, governments in China and Japan have allocated significant budgets for manufacturing and research centers for 3D printing over the past few years. Actually, Asia-Pacific region follows closely behind North America and Europe with a little over 20 percent share in the global market.

Our research shows that Healthcare, with a 17.0% share, is the 3rd largest 3D printing market and uses 3D printing for mass customized finished goods, such as hearing aids. The top two markets being consumer products or electronics with close to than 22 percent and motor vehicles with 18 percent.

Despite Promising Prospects, Regulatory Challenges Need to be Addressed

Globally the governments are still catching up with the technology advancement to come up with clear policies and guidelines for 3D printing to become mainstream in healthcare applications.

In the US, the FDA has made some progress and has cleared more than 85 3D-printed medical devices and a 3D-printed epilepsy drug, Spritam, however, all applications approved till date have been limited to lower-risk devices, such as non-load-bearing implants. The FDA has yet to give medical device companies firm guidance about what it requires for products made through 3D printing techniques.

While governments and regulators may be justified in careful examination of this novel technology and its applications in mission critical industry such as healthcare, the market for 3D printing is showing no signs of slowing down.

Top Growth Opportunities

3D printing is cost-effective for small production runs, especially for small-sized standard implants or prosthetics, used for spinal, dental, or craniofacial applications. They are advantageous for companies with low production volumes or those that produce parts or products that are highly complex or require frequent modifications

3D printing has potential for large-scale production in markets where high volumes of parts are required, whether it is hearing aid shells, spinal implants, standard hip cups, or surgical guides.

3D printing is expected to allow drug dosage forms, release profiles, and dispensing to be customised for each patient

Sachi Mulmi is a researcher with Frost & Sullivan. She can be reached at sachi.mulmi@frost.com

Sapan Agarwal drives content and marketing for Frost & Sullivan. Sapan is based out of Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and can be reached at sapan.agarwal@frost.com | +603 6204 5830

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