Or will additive manufacturing make its breakthrough in medicine? Scientists like Dr. Julian Quodbach from the Institute of Pharmaceutical Technology at the University of Düsseldorf see great potential for individualized therapies: in the future, every drug could be printed with the exact amount of active ingredient required, Quodbach believes. The Zip-Dose technology from Aprecia Pharmaceuticals shows how this might look like: A 3D printer applies thin films of active substance layer by layer and sticks it together in an aqueous solution.
This results in porous tablets with an individual dose of active ingredient, which are also highly soluble in water. In 2015, the manufacturer received FDA approval for the printed antiepileptic drug Spritam. In the future, Aprecia intends to work with Cycle Pharmaceuticals to process so-called Oprhan drugs, which are unattractive due to a small mark in conventional manufacturing, for 3D printing.
All in One: The Additive Poly–Pill
"The use of innovative print technologies will prove essential with healthcare systems having to accomplish more tasks with fewer resources," says David Mills, CEO of Ricoh Europe's print specialists, "The printing of medicines layer by layer, special Fighting disease could soon be commonplace."
Another benefit of the additive dosage: In the future, several drugs could be combined in a single so-called poly-pill. This is also the goal of start-up Vitae Industries, which has developed the "Auto Compounder", an active ingredient printer that creates pharmaceutical gums and pills in a third of the time that would be required for manual filling. A low price should make the Autocompounder affordable for pharmacies. Meanwhile, researchers in Berkeley are working on DNA synthesis from the printer.
Bye–Bye, Pharmacist: Are we Able to 'Download' a Pill?
Anyone who now dreams of printing their own equipment and medicines in the future must know that the production from the printer also requires an infrastructure for material feeding and discharging, as well as for heating, stirring or pumping.
This makes the process too unwieldy for household use – yet, additive manufacturing could be used to synthesize active ingredients for which there would be no market for mass production e.g. in hospitals. Even for the chemical industry, mini-scale production could massively increase the selection of economically viable products. This makes the process exciting for specialized applications, for example in the pharmaceutical sector. However, the legal framework for testing and approval procedures or quality control has yet to be found for such very small series. Then, even printed airplanes might be possible in the long run.