When 3D Printing Supports People

The March 2018 issue of Additive Manufacturing highlights some of the ways 3D printing benefits humans as patients, consumers and professionals.


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If machine learning was the star of the last edition of Additive Manufacturing magazine, the March 2018 issue has a more human focus. 

We often write about the ways that AM and 3D printing technology can benefit people professionally, as manufacturers—by delivering parts faster, at lower cost or with better functionality. That’s still the case this month, with stories that focus on prototype mold cavities, production-ready injection molds and short-run manufacturing

But what about using 3D printing to help a manufacturer’s own workforce? Liberty Electronics is one company that’s found advantages to 3D printing custom tooling for its own employees. Some of these employees are affected by mobility issues, and depend on these specialized grips, adapters and other tools to do their daily work.

There are also medical applications to consider. In this month’s cover story, contract Slice Mfg. Studios uses electron beam melting (EBM) to manufacture acetabular hip cups. These 3D-printed hip cups offer benefits to the patient with a built-in trabecular structure, which means there’s no coating that could delaminate inside the body, while also supporting the surgeon—the cups’ titanium-only construction means that they can be anodized to a color that correlates with plate and bone screw sizing for easier use in the operating room. In a similar vein, Smith & Nephew is creating custom “cutting blocks” for surgeons to speed knee replacement surgery and ensure precise implant placement. 

And sometimes the “support” 3D printing provides is even more literal. 3D-printed footwear is quickly becoming more readily available, with a number of brands and technology providers forming partnerships to advance this consumer application. 

Read these stories and more (including a preview of technologies to be displayed at Rapid 2018) in the March 2018 digital edition.