When I entered high school, I realized that I was drawn to medical and biological sciences. I had limited exposure so, I started searching for internships, shadowing opportunities, or volunteering to learn more about biology and technology. My exploration led to an internship at a medical manufacturing startup called PrinterPrezz. The company’s focus came as a surprise to me, as I never imagined the confluence of medicine and 3D printing for medical manufacturing. PrinterPrezz was working with medical professionals and engineers to build both implants to be used inside the body made of biocompatible metals as well as orthotics made of resins and other materials to be used outside of the body. Throughout my summer internship, I worked with many orthopedic professionals to study the benefits 3D printing could offer to improve the functionality of prosthetics. From breathable arm braces to surgical retractors, I experimented with various 3D technologies to discern how they could improve the design and functionality of various orthotics. This experience exposed me to the world of customized medical 3D printing and its potential to improve quality of life for millions of patients.
Many believe that 3D printing is mainly restricted to engineering disciplines, a belief I also held prior to interning at PrinterPrezz. I was very surprised to learn that the technology is applicable to a multitude of fields, including culinary arts, medicine, automotive, and more. PancakeBot™ released the first ever pancake 3D printer that can print pancakes in the shape of fun images and drawings. Organovo’s NovoGen MMX prints cellular hydrogels that mature into human tissue sheets. These sheets are currently being used to test pharmaceutical drugs, a cruelty-free alternative to animal testing. 3D printing is also quite prominent in the construction business. ICON, a Texas-based company, prototyped a 3D printed house for $10,000. The company believes that the price can be further reduced to just $4000 a house.
With so many verticals transitioning to additive manufacturing, 3D printing outfits are developing advanced printers to cater a more personalized solution to specific market segments. As 3D printers become more mainstream, it is important for students to comprehend how they can use this technology in their career pursuits. At present, only a select few universities are recognizing additive manufacturing and its many uses. They are now beginning to add design labs built for rapid prototyping to their academic programs; however, high school students are still under exposed to the world of 3D Printing. Here the change is yet to occur.
I believe that revolutionary technologies like 3D printing should be integrated into the general curriculum in schools. While current educational models, such as mathematical modeling, introduce students to the application of textbook knowledge to real world issues, they often portray exaggerated situations that students are unlikely to encounter. Additive manufacturing hardware and software provide students with a visual and physical alternative to current educational methods by allowing them to apply creative methods to design processes and test different models. In addition, learning about the specific applications of additive manufacturing in different fields can give students a glimpse into the nature of their professions of interest. This belief has motivated me to help spread awareness amongst other students globally and introduce them to the uses of 3D printing in various industries. From design to materials and scaling to prototyping, 3D printing can help converge the future technology of the world with the aspirations of my generation.