SmartTech Publishing released a new study of additive manufacturing in orthopedics in May 2017. The market research company says their paper “Additive Orthopedics: Markets for 3D Printed Medical Implants 2017,” is an in-depth look and analysis of the opportunities specific to the use of additive manufacturing or 3D printing technology for medical applications.

Here are some of the highlights based on a report from the June 7, 2017 Today’s Medical Developments:

  • The additive orthopedic market generated nearly $500 million in total opportunities in 2016.
  • Production of all additively manufactured orthopedic and medical implants is estimated to grow by 29% CAGR through 2026, with the fastest growing segments being in knee reconstruction component systems, spinal fusion devices, and non-load-bearing extremity fracture devices greatly exceeding total average growth.
  • Associated revenue opportunities in additive orthopedics heavily favor outsourced manufacturing and engineering services, as outsourced production of printed implants will remain common through both contract manufacturers for both standard sized implants and direct-to-provider services for patient-specific implants.
  • In addition to printed medical implants, significant revenue generation and growth opportunities include hardware, print materials, print software, and outsourced production and clinical engineering services.

While the report suggests significant revenue opportunities in hardware, software and materials these also pose significant obstacles to further development of medical 3D printing that have yet to be overcome.

Software challenge around data file size

As highlighted in an April GE Reports article, a significant challenge for continued development of 3D printing medical devices is the time it takes to translate the imaging data into the digital inputs for the print instructions.

To give you an idea of the size of the challenge, Jimmie Beacham, chief engineer for advanced manufacturing at GE Healthcare, explained in the article that an advanced CT scanner can generate in 1 second the amount of data equivalent to 6,000 Netflix movies.

Currently translating all the 3D imaging data from a single CT scan into patient-specific implants can take days to weeks. Beacham’s team of GE Healthcare researchers are working to translate CT images into 3D printed organ implants in minutes. “We want to do it with a click of a button,” says Beacham.

3D print hardware and materials challenges

While the challenges of printing using titanium, ceramics and plastics for orthopedic applications have largely been met; some of the most promising applications of 3D printing are in regenerative medicine.

The ability to produce patient-matched skin, bone, blood vessels, or other damaged body parts, as well as diagnostic, and pathology modeling promises to revolutionize treatment for trauma, and degenerative conditions. The key to this application, however, lies in pairing hardware with biomaterials that preserve viability during and after bio-fabrication.

A number of bio-printing hardware modalities are being researched, including cellular inkjet printing, extrusion-based technologies, soft lithography, and laser-induced forward transfer. At the same time developing print materials that preserve viability of cellular components is ongoing with curable synthetic polymers, synthetic gels, and naturally derived hydrogels leading the way, according to a review in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering.

Whether you are an inventor or a company working to develop medical solutions using additive manufacturing, Kapstone has the experience and expertise to help you rapidly develop and commercialize any aspect of medical device manufacturing including additive manufacturing processes. For more information, contact us today at (704) 843-7852 or email us directly at






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