3D Printers Will Save Lives


        Printers have been an essential part of life since the early days of the printing press. They are an extremely effective form of wide spread communication and distribution of information, among many other things. Who could have thought that printers would evolve to produce three-dimensional products? The first time I really heard anything about 3D printers was during my freshman year. I was in an Engineering and Design course in the Hammond building, and one of our classrooms had two miniature 3D printers. These are not industrial scale, but were in fact made by students here at Penn State. You could use them during the course by creating a prototype in the design software provided on the computer, and then printing it out in plastic on the printer. I thought it was fascinating and impressive that students were able to design something so sophisticated. I decided to do more research on the printers and found out something astonishing.


            An article from marlinfinance.com claims that 3D printers will soon have the ability to print organs suitable for human transplant. With improvement in technology, 3D printing "may eventually save billions in the health care field." (Walsh). The article states that over fifty billion dollars are spent each year on researching and developing new drugs, only to have as few as twenty approved annually. These new printers could speed up the process by creating test organs to be used in experimenting the effects of the drugs, negating the use for human trials, which as we've learned, can cause much controversy.


With so many people on organ waiting lists, the chances of actually receiving an organ become smaller and smaller. Three-dimensional printing has the opportunity to change that. Though we may be a decade or two away from fully functional prototypes, we've been able to make some headway suggesting that we are moving in the right direction. A University in China has "created a set of 3D printed kidneys in miniature, using a set of cells that can live for up to four months" (Anderson). The kidney was able to perform the same functions as a natural human kidney, as well as breaking down toxic matter. Kidney transplant waiting lists are among the highest in number. One method to creating the organ tissue includes "electrospinning for the creation of large blood vessel scaffolds that can then be joined with bioprinted microvessels." (Clark). Luckily, the same article explains that hearts will be "one of the easiest organs to bioprint". Having the ability to readily produce replacement organs like this would be an incredible feat of man and would save countless lives.


Speaking from personal experience, I can attest to the seriousness of organ transplants and the dire need for donors. My father had a kidney transplant in 1998 and was on dialysis for months before the transplant. Dialysis is a medical process that performs the same functions as a kidney when patients suffer from kidney failure. Thankfully, my father's cousin was generous enough to donate one of his kidneys, saving my dad's life in the process. The procedure went as well as it could have and fifteen years later, the kidney is still staying strong. As a result, he has to take countless pills a day to keep him alive, but it's a small price to pay for life. Fortunately, his story is one of success and a great demonstration of a successful kidney transplant. Though before we got news from his cousin, it was a frightening and difficult time. With the advancement of technology, we will eventually be able to over come these difficulties and hopefully prevent future families from waiting in fear for a donor.

Click here for a video on the bioprinting process

3d bio printer.png

Works Cited

Anderson, Steve. "Could 3D Printed Kidneys Be Part Of Medicine's Future?" Could  

        3DPrinted Kidneys Be Part Of Medicine's Future? N.p., 02 Dec. 2013. Web. 05   

        Dec. 2013. <http://www.healthtechzone.com/topics/healthcare/articles



Clark, Liat. "Bioengineer: The Heart Is One of the Easiest Organs to Bioprint, We'll

Do It in a Decade." Wired UK. N.p., 21 Nov. 2013. Web. 05 Dec. 2013. <http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-11/21/3d-printed-whole-heart>.

"Dialysis Types, and Advantages - MedicineNet." MedicineNet. Ed. William C. Shiel,

MD, FACP, FACR. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicinenet.com/dialysis/article.htm>.

Walsh, Brian E. "3D Printing Can Change Organ Transplantation, Drug

              Development- Marlin Equipment Finance Media Room." Marlin Equipment

              Finance Media Room. N.p., 05 Dec. 2013. Web. 05 Dec. 2013.










An interesting counter point might be the dangers of potential 3D printing. Within a few years, 3D printers will start showing up in homes across the country. One of the major concerns from the start with these printers is the potential for creating guns with the printer. One might think it's unrealistic to create a reliable plastic pistol, but in fact not only have functional plastic guns been printed, but metal guns have been printed too.Click Here for information about the metal printed guns. Luckily, software companies are in the process of developing programs that can detect and prevent the printing of gun parts.

Continuing on the topic of printing guns, these plastic guns pose a much larger threat than any ordinary gun. With the ability for anybody to print whatever gun they choose to use however they want, gun control would cease to exist. These plastic guns are even more deadly than the real things because they can go undetected through security stops, border inspections, and airport security. And even if the software companies were to prevent the creation of guns, what's stopping a technologically savvy terrorist or criminal from overriding those systems?

Its interesting to read this and see how amazing this invention is, being able to make pretty much anything you want as long as you have one of these 3d printers. While these 3d printers may be able to save lives by creating replacement body parts they invention can also take lives. In an article in vice magazine they talk about how people use 3D printing to make guns. Due to fear of guns being banded a lot of pro gun lobbyist have started to plan for a band. They want anyone in the world to be able to make a gun using 3D printing if the government won't let people buy guns. I think this is outrageous that they trust everyone in the world with a gun and would hand over them the files to make a gun right on the internet for free.

I have only really known about the existence of 3D printers for the last year, and I am amazed every time I hear about them/see them in person. The idea that an object could be printed and therefore manufactured everywhere could be a huge step for humanity, especially in cultures where supplies are limited. With 3D printers, they could get the supplies they need as soon as they need it, instead of waiting for it to ship. I think the concern for people using these to print weapons is real. This is what a personal 3D printer would look like: it's picture of a desktop 3D printer, retailing at 1,300.\


One of the remarkable aspects of these recent developments of technology, is how the notion of what a "print" is has, and will change dramatically as 3D printers become standardized. Of course the implications that this has for design, art, and so forth are interesting on their on right, but with regards to other forms of matter such as biological tissue, the change in definition is entirely dramatic.

3D printers are pretty interesting and it is quite clear it will be the future of printing and will be in many homes once the prices come down and we get a consumer version. Obviously one of the biggest concerns right now is the risk of people using the 3D printer for creating guns and quite frankly, I don't know how you would stop that unless they actively make sure the 3D blue prints for guns are behind a ton of encryption on the internet or where ever such date to print 3D stuff resides.

It's interesting to see how the topic of printing guns keeps coming up. Obviously safety is key on everyone's mind if technology becomes readily available. Timothy Barry raised some EXCELLENT points that I hadn't even really considered. The inflow of plastic firearms into virtually any public space becomes a huge issue. Like I previously mentioned, companies are working on preventative software to keep blueprints of firearms from being able to print, but who knows how easy it will be for people to find ways around that. This may be slightly off topic from the guns, but this will blow your mind

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