Is 3D printing the future of medicine? Intel seems to think so.

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Intel’s stand at the Wearable Technology Show is all about health and fitness – and it appears that the company is working on some potentially exciting things in health care.

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First up I had a look at a prototype that Intel is developing in Turkey called the “Smart Splint”. Despite medical technology coming on leaps and bounds over the last several decades, splints haven’t changed much – until now. Intel reckons that 3D printing splints customised to the patient will be much more comfortable, as they won’t rub against them like a “one size fits all” solution would.

They also look totally bad-ass.

The reason for all of the holes isn’t just stylistic – they allow doctors to prod around with broken limbs, with injections and the like, without having to remove the splint.

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And now here’s the really cool bit: They can also be fitted with a pressure sensor, powered by Intel’s tiny Edison computer (think like a Raspberry Pi but even smaller) – which can then transmit pressure data via bluetooth to an Android app. The app is, appropriately enough, called Osteoid.

This means that doctors can get readings really easily – and much more regularly than normal. Apparently there’s a big potential for work in improving things for Cerebral Palsy sufferers.

I also got a brief look at a 3D-printed prosthetic hand – which could make getting artificial limbs a potentially quicker and cheaper process. Whilst the hand doesn’t contain any pressure sensors itself, it can apparently figure out where it is and how much pressure to apply based on calculations using the motors.

After seeing this, and following Apple’s ResearchKit announcement yesterday, it does seem to be a genuinely exciting time for medical gadgets.

James O’Malley

One thought on “Is 3D printing the future of medicine? Intel seems to think so.

  • The revolution that 3d printing technology brought to the health and medical niche is already unbelievable. The progress is amazing really and the
    opportunities limitless. The same pattern follows in the aerospace and automotive industries as well. 3dprintingpartner.com

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