Even though additive manufacturing and 3D printing (AM/3DP) are still in the early adoption phase by most medical device manufacturers (MDMs), these technologies continue to evolve at a rapid pace. Today, most AM/3DP applications in the medical industry are for prototype development, anatomical models, and “one-off” custom components. 3D-printed surgical instrumentation and cutting guides for procedures such as knee, spinal, and dental implants are on the rise. On the manufacturing side, AM/3DP is used to make components for prototype mold tools, conformal cooling inserts for production tools, and jigs and fixtures for making or inspecting production parts.
Although AM/3DP has made great strides in equipment hardware and material science, it is still several years from being accepted as a viable process for scaled, precision, cost-effective manufacturing. That said, AM/3DP continues to drive innovation through advances in mass customization, low cost in low volumes, design flexibility and freedom, and transforming the supply chain with on-demand manufacturing.