Jan.29, 2014

The technology of 3D "bioprinting" - the medical application of 3D printing to produce living tissue and organs - is advancing so quickly that it will spark a major ethical debate on its use by 2016, according to Analyst Group Gartner Inc. Meanwhile 3D printing of non-living medical devices such as prosthetic limbs, combined with a burgeoning population and insufficient levels of healthcare in emerging markets, is likely to cause an explosion in demand for the technology by 2015.

"3D bioprinting facilities with the ability to print human organs and tissue will advance far faster than general understanding and acceptance of the ramifications of this technology," said Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner.

Working liver

Liver tissue printed in a petri dish. (Image: Organovo)

In August 2013, the Hangzhou Dianzi University in China announced it had invented the biomaterial 3D printer Regenovo, which printed living cells that survived for up to four months. San Diego medical research company Organovo announced last year it had created slices of functioning, long-lasting human liver which can survive for 40 days - using a 3D printer. Organovo has also claimed that it has overcome the vascular issue to a degree and now expects to unveil the world's first 3D printed organ - a human liver - by the end of 2014.

Dr. Faiz Y. Bhora, director of thoracic surgical oncology at the St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York focuses his work on producing 3D printed tracheas from completely biologic materials primed with stem cells for growth.

"These initiatives are well-intentioned, but raise a number of questions that remain unanswered. What happens when complex 'enhanced' organs involving nonhuman cells are made? Who will control the ability to produce them? Who will ensure the quality of the resulting organs?" added Mr. Basiliere.

Nevertheless, the day when 3D-bioprinted human organs are readily available is drawing closer. Gartner expects that it will result in a complex debate involving a great many political, moral and financial interests.

Non-living medical devices

However 3D printing's ability to build customized human anatomical parts has pervasive appeal in medical device markets — especially in economically weak and war-torn regions where it addresses high demand for prosthetic and other medical devices.

"The overall success rates of 3D printing use cases in emerging regions will escalate for three main reasons: the increasing ease of access and commoditization of the technology; ROI; and because it simplifies supply chain issues with getting medical devices to these regions," said Mr. Basiliere. "Other primary drivers are a large population base with inadequate access to healthcare, in regions often marred by internal conflicts, wars or terrorism."

Multichannel retailers

Outside the medical market, Gartner predicts that by 2018, at least seven of the world's top 10 multichannel retailers will be using 3D printing technology to generate custom stock orders, at the same time as entirely new business models are built on the technology.

"Office superstore Staples is already in the market, and other superstores and consumer goods retailers, such as Yamada Denki, are prime candidates to sell printers and finished 3D printed items," says Garnter. This week Dell has also announced a partnership with Makerbot to offer Replicator 3D printers and scanners to small and medium-sized businesses in the US.

"... as they become more readily available, consumers could use them to 'manufacture' their own custom-designed products," said Miriam Burt, research vice president at Gartner. "We also expect to see 3D copying services and 3D printing bureaus emerge where customers bring 3D models to a retailer or provider and have increasingly high-end parts and designs printed, not just in plastics but in materials including ceramics, stainless steel, and cobalt and titanium alloys."

Intellectual property

The rapid emergence of this technology will also create major challenges in relation to intellectual property (IP) theft. In Gartner's recent report "Predicts 2014: 3D Printing at the Inflection Point", Gartner predicts that by 2018, 3D printing will result in the loss of at least $100 billion per year in IP globally.

"The very factors that foster innovation — crowdsourcing, R&D pooling and funding of start-ups — coupled with shorter product life cycles, provide a fertile ground for intellectual property theft using 3D printers," said Mr. Basiliere. "Already, it's possible to 3D print many items, including toys, machine and automotive parts, and even weapons."

In this environment, businesses will find it increasingly difficult to fully monetize their inventions, and licensees of related IP will be less able to achieve the maximum benefit of their licenses. IP thieves will have reduced product development and supply chain costs, enabling them to sell counterfeit goods at a discount, while unsuspecting customers are at risk of poorly performing and possibly even dangerous products.

The 3D printer market is poised to emerge from years of low growth and to double year over year by 2017. Gartner predicted that the 3D printer market will grow from $288 million to more than $5.7 billion by 2017 as consumer 3D printing hype accelerates 3D printer purchases by enterprises worldwide.


Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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huk mccann wrote at 3/13/2014 4:30:30 PM:

if a birth organ could be printed that enables a "natural" caesarean instead of hours and days of LABOR all our lives would be greatly improved.

Fearmonger wrote at 1/29/2014 8:35:15 PM:

Let the FUD begin!

editor-b wrote at 1/29/2014 4:20:32 PM:

Indeed, as well as food is printed from its ingredients or tissue-organs can be printed from inert parts or already living cells, will it be possible to print living cells directly? Perhaps, a tiny virus or a basic cell from simple molecules or atoms? Therefore, step by step, print the whole human being body? Or at least, to print those interrelated genes that by their instructive nature develop complex living beings spontaneously? In any case, anything other than a 4D-prosthesis, a tool, an organic robot, a biobot? Or rather, a pampered child of technology? The first child emerging from inert stuff entirely? Something like a modern Frankenstein? Along these lines, there is a scientific-humanistic book, a public preview in http://goo.gl/IUlSMu Just another suggestion for free-thinking far away from dogmas or axioms

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