How can 3D Printing Techniques be used in Veterinary Medical settings?

A recent article in the online veterinary blog summed up developments in 3D printing for vets quite nicely, with the article entitled “3d printing is changing surgery”. Of course, this is true, we now discuss advances in this technology in our latest question and answer article.

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A 3D printed dog cervical vertebra, this example is used for education and training purposes

The 3D printing process

As with all 3D printing to obtain the print a 3D computer model is needed. In veterinary practices many of the images will be from MRI or CT scans, these can be exported to a CAD file, which can be 3D printed (using various materials) using lasers such as the fiber lasers manufactured by SPI Lasers.

3D printing is already being used in veterinary practices today

The reality is that 3D printing is already being used and most practices won’t even know it! For example, many of the drugs used by practices will have been 3D printed. Practices may already have received 3D printed splints or surgical guides and may not have realised they were 3D printed.

Example 3D printing applications for vets

The applications below are not an exhaustive list, but will give some idea of what is available:

  • Bespoke, sterile surgical implants (also called guides), which are used in complex surgeries, for example:
    • Cancer surgery – prosthetic bone replacements, e.g. part of a skull
    • Deformity corrections – correction of birth deformities, e.g. hip or knee defects
    • Vertebral stabilisations – printing of new spinal parts as required
    • Complex fracture alignments – with bespoke 3D printed parts, e.g. splints
  • Medical modelling – models can be 3D printed for teaching and educational purposes
  • Planning of surgical procedures – in complex cases and with valuable animals (e.g. in zoos), a 3D model can be printed to help the surgeon by practicing on a model before the surgery
  • Prosthetics – artificial 3D parts such as arms, legs, feet for animals can be 3D printed, as they can be for humans

Advantages of 3D printing

Here are some of the advantages of 3D printing in veterinary practices:

  • Animal welfare – 3D printing can avoid animal euthanasia in some cases and improve the animal’s general wellbeing
  • Minimal waste – the 3D printing process produces very minimal amounts of waste
  • One-off pieces – these are made to maximise patient successful outcomes and exactly fit the sizes/dimensions required and
  • Variety of materials – a range of materials can be 3D printed, e.g. metals, ceramics and glass, etc.

SPI Fiber Lasers delivering fiber lasers for 3D printing

Fiber lasers are a perfect tool to deliver the demanding 3D printing requirements of the veterinary industry. Whether you are a machine builder, veterinary industry supplier or a practice, why not contact SPI Lasers to investigate this technology further? To receive future updates from SPI Lasers, click here.


Image Credit: 3D Heals


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