3D printing is sparking innovation in healthcare and education

June 22, 20183 Minute Read

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If you haven’t been closely watching developments in 3D printing, you might want to start. If you don’t, it’s increasingly likely you’ll miss some exciting new innovations—particularly in healthcare and education.

While scientists are developing 3D-printed organs and bionic skin (yes, skin) that may be used to treat patients in the future, educators are finding that 3D print technology can unlock meaningful learning opportunities for all their students—including those with unique learning styles. Today, 3D printing in healthcare and education is transforming both sectors, sparking innovation that can inevitably lead to better business outcomes.

Go bionic with healthcare tech

The healthcare sector is in the middle of serious change—with much of it directly wrought by technology. Thanks to 3D printing, patients and their healthcare professionals can better communicate with one another in a more holistic, collaborative way.

With the benefit of 3D-printed models, doctors can visually demonstrate and explain medical conditions and disease management techniques to their patients. Surgeons can also use such models to test and refine their surgical procedures so they can fully prepare and anticipate any challenges that may arise well before the actual operation. Elder care professionals have seen great results in their patients—including those with dementia—who have used 3D technology to create art that expresses their feelings and communicates their concerns.

3D printing’s applications for healthcare aren’t limited to education or communication, either: They also reach into the realm of medical treatment itself. Researchers are working on 3D-printed organs that may one day serve as transplants in the human body. As Mic reports, scientists have recently developed 3D-printed bionic skin that can sense touch and could one day treat burn victims or diabetes patients with severe skin ulceration. Another group of scientists is working on a separate version of 3D-printed human skin that incorporates a patient’s own skin cells, making it far more likely their body will accept it.

Prototypes of 3D-printed medicine are under development, too, meaning you could one day receive a file from the pharmacy with the exact details of the medicine you need to take, and you could print it on your own. Once considered a novelty for early adopters, 3D print tech is now changing how people can engage with and receive health services.

Take a lesson in 3D

For students, especially those who are kinesthetic or visual learners, 3D printers can be a very empowering tool. They can take theoretical objects or content—from atoms to architectural concepts—and turn them into a reality. This makes classroom content more meaningful and relevant. Educational concepts are no longer abstract, but real and easy for all students to touch, grapple with, and understand.

3D printing projects sync up perfectly with the STEAM trend in education, and educators can use the technology for immersive learning across a variety of disciplines. For example, students in a design class could create the tessellation patterns found in M.C. Escher drawings and print them out as 3D puzzle pieces. This activity blends both mathematics and art, encouraging students to engage in mathematical thinking by identifying patterns they see in the puzzle. Or astronomy students could collaborate with teammates to create a robot, tinkering with robotics, coding, and engineering along the way.

The potential of 3D printing in education shows incredible promise today. It makes educational opportunities and complex topics accessible, broadening the reach and depth of learning and collaboration opportunities for students. It also invites students to be more creative and hands-on in their learning, which in turn increases engagement, especially in technical subjects. When educational IT teams invest in 3D printers, everyone wins.

Healthcare and education delivery no longer have to be static, flat, and monochrome—they can be three-dimensional and in full color. Healthcare organizations and schools can also use color printing to take innovation to the next level in a complementary way, visually and creatively engaging patients and learners.

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