3D Printing

It was in 2014 that I first saw a 3D printer. It didn’t look like much. When it went to work it was slow. However, unquestionably it could print complex products that had intricate interweaving. Nuts and bolts, screws – you name it, the small machine could print it on the spot. I learnt that the machine currently used liquid plastic as its raw material. Over time, the machine would learn to deal with all sorts of material. This is crucial for people like you and me.

Three years later, 3D printing has turned its attention to medical science. Imagine you managed to fall off your chair and broke your hand. Traditionally, therapy involved going into a doctors office, getting a cast made and then giving your hand a rest for the next 8-10 weeks depending on the nature of your injury. The cast was uncomfortable, it would not fit especially since your muscles would atrophy within. Your hands would itch and you would be happy to be rid of the cast; signed or unsigned by your fellow colleagues.

Today, if you have access, the same cast can be 3D printed. It will fit perfectly since it uses a 3D image of your hand. It weighs practically nothing, it waterproof and even manages to cut down the total time you need to spend languishing. Next your doctor will print you a 3D rehabilitation system. This will use low intensity electrical pulses to stimulate the muscles to restore them to original form. Both the casts will come with sensors that can be used by your doctor or your wife to track your progress remotely. Of course only to check in to ensure that you were not playing basketball with your broken arm.

We are only at the cusp of discovery and invention of fundamentally new ways to deal with injury and illness. Falling sick will soon be a whole new experience.