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Published on January 13th, 2017 | by Geetika Bhasin

Medical supplies will be 3D printed in space from this month

3D printing tools at the ISS have been handy in printing tools and other equipment needed by astronauts in space. From 3D printing repair parts for satellites and other devices onboard, 3D printing is being used to explore the possibility making settlements in space.

3D4MD is a Toronto-based 3D medical printing company that has proposed a plan to 3D print medical devices in space. This will save the time taken in restoring supplies from the Earth. The manufacture of these items that include splints and surgical tools will be tested at the ISS this month.

3D4MD was founded in 2011 by Julielynn Wong and has been engaged in developing affordable medical supplies using 3D printing. Now, this company’s innovative devices will benefit the astronauts in space. Wong said that after the first 3D printer was installed at the ISS, their team started work of producing 3D printed equipment on the spacecraft. She was even invited to the Mars Desert Research Station to 3D print tools. Finally, this month, they will be 3D printing medical supplies in space.

For example, if the team had to 3D print finger splints in the case of an injury, they would use laser scans and measurements. These scans would be sent to the Earth to design the splint. This 3D file would be sent back to the ISS for printing. Other tools like the 3-in-1 tools for dental filling could aid in replacing a filling. A sensory evaluation tool is also placed onboard for analyzing the astronauts’ injury condition.

Not only in space, 3D4MD’s 3D printing medical equipment will be a boon for areas that have remote access to medical supplies. Smartphones could be used by medical professionals in these areas and the medical supplies could be printed used solar-powered printers. The company plans to set up a digital library consisting of crowdsourced medical 3D printers.

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