Linnea Wethekam – Exploration 1

Here is my first exploration into the world of 3D printing. There are a number of topics to discuss but, I will focus on three main questions:

  1. What are the current and emerging 3D printing applications in the manufacturing field?
  2. What are the advantages and limitations of 3D printing technology?
  3. What are the larger implications of 3D printing with regard to manufacturing and the economy?

So to answer these questions I did some digging into the amazing feats of 3D printing.

I first became interested in 3D printing when I saw a news story about printing an organ. I thought that it was a super development that could change the way that failing organs are replaced. A few years later I was watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy when I saw Meredith take the CT scans and make a 3D print of the tumor to properly remove it from the patient. This opened my world to how medicine can become personalized through 3D printing. Of the many practical applications for this technology, one thing that interests me the most is the idea of drug delivery systems that are 3D printed so that they are both patient specific and biodegrade. One of the promising treatments from this faction of 3D printing is for bone cancer and infections. This is one of the most exciting fields of 3D printing because it will provide a safer choice in providing patients with treatments that will have a higher success rate.


Here is the 3D printed tumor that sparked my interest in the technology.

There are many advantages like the personalizations that can occur, not only with organ replacements, but with medicine and prosthetics. One advantage mentioned by the book Fabricated by Lipson and Kurman, is the speed of production and the ease with which changes can be made to the printing file. Limits to 3D printing mainly revolve around being able to retain a sterile environment for organs, to limit infection or cross contamination. Another limit would be the cost to harvest cells and then grow them to be competent. Finally, a method of printing that allows for there to be cavities and blood and other vessels.


This is a really cool 3D printed custom prosthetic leg.

For medicine and 3D printing it is the customization that is key to economic success. If hospitals are able to successfully print organs or models of tumors that increase successful surgeries. Then these hospitals can be known for their speciality and therefore reap the economic rewards that accompany this. Another consideration is that if there is increased recovery time and more people that are able to work, then there is inherently an economic impact. There is also the reduction in health care expenses if those that need transplants or have cancer can heal quicker and spend less time in the hospital.


Here are some additional examples of 3D printed organs.

This entry was posted by lwethekam.

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