Header Image: A 3D printed acetabulum. Credit Arcam
The field of medical engineering is undergoing a transformative shift with the integration of 3D printing technology into point-of-care orthopaedics. This innovative approach has the potential to revolutionize orthopaedic treatments by reducing lead times, enhancing device fit, and minimizing material waste.
Point of care refers to the location or setting where medical diagnostics, treatments, and interventions are provided directly to patients, often in immediate proximity to the patient, facilitating rapid and convenient healthcare delivery.
Benefits of 3D Printing in Orthopaedics:
3D printing is poised to address long-standing challenges in orthopaedics, offering a fresh perspective on patient care. 3D printing introduces a sustainable approach to orthopaedics by minimizing material waste. Unlike traditional manufacturing methods, which often result in excess material usage, 3D printing enables precise fabrication, contributing to both cost savings and environmentally friendly practices (1).
Additionally, by enabling the on-site printing of bespoke medical components, 3D printing unlocks a new level of personalization, potentially resulting in improved patient outcomes (1).
This technology, that can be based all on site, has the capacity to significantly reduce lead times for patient with unique requirements where standard devices are not appropriate, which is of paramount importance, particularly in urgent and emergency situations.
Challenges and Considerations:
While the potential benefits of 3D printing in orthopaedics are immense, challenges persist. Mechanical losses during the 3D printing process can impact the durability and mechanical properties of orthopaedic devices (2). Furthermore, questions arise about the performance of 3D printed devices in tribological environments. Addressing these challenges requires ongoing research and development to optimize the technology for orthopaedic applications.
The integration of 3D printing into point-of-care orthopaedics paints an exciting picture for the future. The ability to create personalized orthopaedic solutions on site holds promise for reducing lead times, minimizing material waste, and enhancing patient-specific implant designs. This technology has the potential to reshape the landscape of orthopaedic care and contribute to more efficient and patient-centred treatments.
The convergence of 3D printing and orthopaedics signifies a paradigm shift in medical engineering. The ability to print bespoke medical devices directly at the point of care offers a glimpse into a future where orthopaedic treatments are more tailored, efficient, and sustainable. As we navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by 3D printing, it is clear that this technology has the power to redefine the way we approach orthopaedic care, ultimately leading to improved patient outcomes and a more responsive healthcare system.
 Teo, A.Q.A., Ng, D.Q.K., Peng, L.E.E. and O’NEILL, G.K., 2021. Point-of-Care 3D printing: A feasibility study of using 3D printing for orthopaedic trauma. Injury, 52(11), pp.3286-3292.
 Bastawrous, S., Wu, L., Liacouras, P.C., Levin, D.B., Ahmed, M.T., Strzelecki, B., Amendola, M.F., Lee, J.T., Coburn, J. and Ripley, B., 2022. Establishing 3D printing at the point of care: basic principles and tools for success. Radiographics, 42(2), pp.451-468.
This article was written by Ben Clegg part of an ongoing series of scientific communications written and curated by BioTrib’s Early Stage Researchers.
Ben is researching the Wear particle characterization and bio-compatibility of newly 3D printed self-lubricating polymer composites in total joint replacements at Luleå University of Technology, Sweden.