Practicing Medicine in Three Dimensions

3D Printing in Medicine

Edited by Deepak M. Kalaskar, Elsevier Press, 2017. ISBN 978-0-08-100717-4, ix + 226 pages, US$215.

This heavily referenced text is a recommended read for anyone wishing to get up to speed in the area of three-dimensional (3-D) (also called additive manufacturing here) printing applications in the field of medicine. The ten-chapter text is the work of 20 contributors, one of whom is the editor. Each chapter is preceded by the chapter outline and closes with an extensive list of references.

The text opens with a history of 3-D printing in medicine, from a discussion of the initial stereolithography work in the 1980s to a list of requirements for useful bioprinting, and provides an overview of the remainder of the text. Chapter 2 covers laser-, powder-, and nozzle-based techniques used currently in biomedicine; a timeline here serves to orient the reader to the use of these techniques in printing bladder cells (1999) and cranial implants and heart valves (2013).

Materials are covered next (Chapter 3). Metals (such as titanium for implants), polymers (sutures and ligaments), ceramics (bone defects), and hydrogels (for printing cell constructs) are overviewed.

Chapter 4 discusses the techniques used to visualize pertinent human structures (including heart valves and brittle bones), select relevant sections or volumes of tissues, create the proper build files (in the STL file format), and print. Regulatory aspects based on U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines and future trends are also covered in this excellent overview.

Chapter 5 gives a distillation of patient-specific in situ 3-D printing. Reviewed here are 3-D organ and tissue manufacture (heart valves, ears, and spinal disks), prosthetic manufacture (jaws, windpipes, and dental implants), and surgical training devices (including jaw repair mockups).

Chapter 6 gives an excellent summary of 3-D printed in vitro disease models. The hope here is to replace animal models of disease with human cell constructs that may more closely (and inexpensively) allow one to study human disease models and their response to intervention.

To allow for presurgical planning (Chapter 7), the 3-D printing process has several attributes that allow the creation of constructs for analyses of approaches, the development of specialized surgical tools, and the creation of models appropriate for physician and lay education regarding a patient’s condition (e.g., bone defects). Three-dimensional printing of pharmaceutical products is considered in Chapter 8; the possibilities of patient-specific dosing and specialized capsule design are considered.

The high-resolution printing techniques needed to make organ generation a real possibility are discussed in Chapter 9. Four-dimensional printing in health care, i.e., the development of 3-D constructs that change shapes based upon a stimulus (such as pH, light, humidity, etc.), is reviewed in the final chapter.

It has been quite a while since I have read such a terse text. Of the roughly 226 pages, only about 160 are chapter text (at a cost of over a dollar a page!). This is offset by the elaborate and comprehensive referencing of the chapters; I estimate that there are over 900 references cited. Overall, this text is nicely done; it provides excellent coverage of the topic at hand and is worth adding to your knowledge base if you are considering work in this area.

I will add as a personal note that, if you plan to work in this field, then you should consider placing yourself on several relevant mailing lists (such as those from and to keep up to date on recent industrial and institutional news in the 3-D printing fields.

Review by Paul H. King, Ph.D., P.E., Vanderbilt University