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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Imagine Printing Inventory on Demand

Published May 25, 2013 8:50 PM by Glen McDaniel


Technology has changed exponentially in recent years. Just consider the apps available on your smart phone today compared to what was available just 5 or ten short years ago. In fact the term disruptive technology was coined to describe any new technology that comes along and is so significant and innovative that it "disrupts" the status quo.

In that sense "disruptive" is not necessarily bad (in fact it usually is positive); it just suggests that the effect is so dramatic that it changes our entire paradigm of what's possible.

One new disruptive technology that has great promise is that of the 3D printer. A recent news story showed a gentleman firing a gun that had been made entirely by using a program and a three- dimensional. This gun was not a toy or simply a life-like replica; it was a fully functional firearm.

Think of the application of such printers in our everyday lives.  Consider how the technology could be adopted in medicine.  A recent article described how doctors in Ohio had used a 3D printer to create a life-saving artificial airway for a baby boy. The child was born with a birth defect that caused his airway to collapse, putting him at constant risk of suffocation.

The article continued to describe other possible uses of  3 D printers in medicine through so called bioprinting: creating spare organs like pancreas and kidneys; creating skin for grafting, making life-like prostheses and even orthodontics (dental bridges, crowns and the like). Just consider for a moment how those vast possibilities would impact the delivery of medical services.

Think for a moment how this technology, which sounds like science fiction, but is already functional, could be applied in the medical laboratory. Anything from inventory to spare parts for instruments could conceivably be printed on demand instead of having to be ordered from a vendor or supplier. But why stop there? At least one researcher is working on creating food using a few oils and powders and a printer.

Would it be possible to bio-print blood products, for example? Reagents? What else? The mind boggles. It seems that possibilities are limited only by the imagination. What would you like to bio-print if you could?


Scientists at Cornell University have "grown" human ears using 3D printer technology

Glen McDaniel June 19, 2013 10:50 PM
Atlanta GA

I wonder how much is really true and how much is just hype. I think many of these changes are experimental and will not make their way into healthcare for a long time. I can see the change in business or in consumer products but I am not sure about healthcare

Jermaine May 27, 2013 11:41 AM
Los Angeles CA

That is truly remarkable. I think I did hear something about 3D but wasn't aware you could do all those things.

I would like to make duplicate instruments so that when one goes down. What about vacutainer tubes and needles and microscope slides and so on?

I hope I am around in the lab  when all these changes come about.

Mary Lamb May 25, 2013 10:24 PM
Louisville KY

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