With our latest study of medical 3D printing markets, SmarTech has chose to focus on a set of interesting medical device applications which, while on the surface appear to be quite different from one another, all share one important thing in common –they can teach us very important lessons about 3D printing’s ability to potentially alter the underlying structure and supply chains of a market. Other major medical applications in 3D printing are focused specifically on surgical care. Of course, 3D printing can also effectively target medical devices which have a much greater degree of consumer interaction in the value chain, and this is where things get interesting, especially in the case of hearing aids, orthotic insoles, orthotic braces, and prosthetic devices. It’s these aforementioned devices which we’ve decided to focus on in the report.

To begin a quick comparison of 3D printing’s potential to disrupt these particular markets, let’s look into the world of hearing aids.

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Primary Elements of Next Generation 3D Printing Software

The future of 3D printing software is in unified tools which encompass all of the critical features scattered throughout today's printing software chain in highly functional software environments. Additive manufacturing build environment software has years of development and is continuing to evolve to resemble CAM for 3D printing.

Additively-intelligent design environments are being developed on the concepts of process simulation and generative design. The AM process monitoring software environment uses simulation and in-situ data collection to inform the ongoing development of the build and design environments.

Combined, these three areas of software development represent the primary elements of tomorrow's 3D printing software.

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Medical 3D Printing Q&A

An interview with Scott Dunham, SmarTech Publishing’s Vice President of Research on opportunities for 3D printing in medical markets

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This blog is a continuation of a multi-part blog series, following up the previous installment titled The Role of 3D Printing Software in Realizing the Dream of Advanced Digital Manufacturing. If you haven’t checked out that one yet, do yourself a favor and go read it. It will put into context the basis for this piece, which is a quick discussion of very important (and emerging) area of 3D printing software for the future.

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Making a model or a prototype or a final use part using a computer controlled technology isn’t the revolution. The revolution is in applying vastly available digital resources to empower manufacturing. Things like near-infinite cloud computing power. 3D printing is the digital manufacturing technology because physics-based limitations are alleviated, and the ability to actually digitally control the manufacturing process is increased by orders of magnitude, all through the concept of layer-by-layer manufacturing. In fact, don’t think about 3D printing processes like metal powder bed fusion or photopolymerization as ‘building parts,’ think about them as ‘distributing mass in a volume of physical space.’

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