Printing Procedures

Team Zorg Enablers
Published on
Trends | Treatment & Guidance


“3D printing is going to be bigger than what the 3D printing companies are saying”

Credit Suisse


The trend of Printing Procedures refers to a production method, also known as 3D printing, where objects are constructed three-dimensionally layer by layer, by a machine that uses computer-aided design (CAD). All kinds of materials can be 3D printed, including plastic, metal, powder, ceramic and liquids. Bioprinting is a special type of 3D printing: it involves the printing of biological materials such as cells and culture mediums for cells [1-3]. One increasingly popular form of 3D printing is 4D printing: it uses material that can change shape due to external triggers such as temperature increase [4, 5]. Developments in 5D printing are worth noting as well: this technique involves a printer that produces a bent layer instead of a flat layer. This results in stronger products that require less material [6].


Application & benefits

More and more materials can be 3D, 4D or 5D printed and thus used in healthcare. Examples include bones, crowns, prosthetics and medical tools as well as models for education and decision making. Bioprinting allows for advanced prints that can replace soft tissue and organs [3]. Small carriers can be printed to deliver drugs to the right location and drugs themselves can be printed as well [5, 6, 7]. Printing techniques tend to be cheaper, faster and open the door to bespoke products for the specific and complex requirements of a single patient or application. The technique reduces waste and costs because it is based on addition rather than removal [6, 7, 8]. Healthcare professionals can greatly benefit from this technique as well. Printed models help prepare for surgery to reduce risks and shorten the duration of interventions. In addition, printing procedures have the potential of replacing animal testing and help the pharmaceutical industry innovate drug testing practices [8, 9]. Finally, new applications for the use of 4D printing are set to arrive in the years ahead: because these printing techniques deliver flexible products that respond to external triggers, parts of organs can be printed for specific patients [10].



The global market value of 3D printing in healthcare was estimated at $973 million in 2018. The market value has increased considerably since then, and is expected to exceed $3.6 billion by 2025. This explosion is mostly caused by the growing demand for personalised aids, increasing investments in research and the expanding adoption of print technology by medical professionals [12, 13]. The global market value of 4D printing in healthcare is on the rise as well: the market value is expected to grow to around $32 million by 2026 from $9 million in 2021 [14, 15]. In 2020, the global market value of bioprinting was estimated at $1.4 billion. This amount is expected to grow to a market value of $4.4 billion by 2028. This growth can be ascribed to an increase in chronic afflictions such as heart and kidney failure, the ageing population and a shortage of organ donors [16].


Driving forces

Changing healthcare needs
Increasing pressure on the healthcare system
New technological capabilities

Hindering forces

Lack of expertise
High costs (development, purchase, and maintenance)
Limiting guidelines, legislation and regulations

Printing procedures are expensive: 3D printing is associated with high costs in and of itself and the software required for 4D and 5D printing makes those significantly more expensive [5]. In addition, it is difficult to find the right expertise to make high-quality prints that meet legal quality requirements [14]. Printing techniques also enable quick production processes: materials for corona tests and breathing aids, for example, could be manufactured at high speed during the corona crisis [17]. In addition, prints can be seamlessly aligned with the patient’s needs which leads to improved healthcare quality.



3D printing offers a powerful instrument for the future and 3D printers will keep expanding their capabilities, reduce costs, increase speeds and expand the applicability of printable materials. 4D and 5D printing are on the rise as well. Progress is made every day, both in the technology itself and its use. This promotes the evolution of personalised healthcare. The development supports the evolution of the empowered patient and the bionic human. Personalised medicine becomes a reality thanks to printing procedures.


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  2. Douroumis, D., 3D Printing of Pharmaceutical and Medical Applications: a New Era., 2019. 42.
  3. Murphy, Sean V., Paolo De Coppi, and Anthony Atala, Opportunities and challenges of translational 3D bioprinting, Nature biomedical engineering, 2019. 1-11.
  4. Javaid, Mohd, and Abid Haleem., 4D printing applications in medical field: a brief review, Clinical Epidemiology and Global Health, 2019: 317-321.
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  6. Haleem, A. & Javaid, M. (2019). Expected applications of five-dimensional (5D) printing in the medical field. Curtrent Medicine Research and Practice, 2019. 9(5).
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  8. Pandey, Manisha, et al., 3D printing for oral drug delivery: a new tool to customize drug delivery, Drug Delivery and Translational Research, 2020. p. 1-16.
  9. Durfee, William K., and Paul A. Iaizzo., Medical applications of 3D printing, Engineering in Medicine. Academic Press, 2019. 527-543.
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  12. Allied Market Research, 3D Printing Healthcare Market by Component, Application, and End User: Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2019–2026, 2019
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  16. Grand View Research, 3D Bioprinting Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Technology (Magnetic Levitation, Inkjet-based), By Application (Medical, Dental, Biosensors, Bioinks), By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2021 – 2028, 2020
  17. Richardson, L., 3D Printing of Medical Equipment Can Help in the Pandemic, but Is Only a Stopgap, PEW, 2020 July 8th [Available from:]