Life in 3D

The Latest Beneficiary of 3D Printing: Clueless, Frazzled New Doctors?

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3D print yourself some help.

3D print yourself some help.

It’s so very easy to overestimate the power of 3D printing. DIY semiautomatics, for example, are a terrifying prospect, but they’re not exactly right around the corner. Likewise, it’s easy to dream of a world where surgeons can simply 3D print a new liver. But the Wall Street Journal reports that current medical applications are a little more mundane.

Current technology can produce a pretty convincing replica of an organ, with “the wetness and texture of a real human liver, making it more suitable to cut with a surgical knife,” the Journal reports. That won’t exactly cut the waiting list for organs, but it can help plan a delicate transplant.

That sort of thing is useful for an experienced old hand. But the real beneficiaries are likely to be the newbies:

Mr. Sugimoto believes that longer-term, the technology could help younger, less experienced surgeons practice with accurate copies before surgery.

If doctors feel more confident about the surgeries they are about to perform, patients will feel more comfortable, Mr. Sugimoto said.

So, basically, 3D printing promises to work as training wheels for rookie doctors. If only you could produce a bedside manner by additive manufacturing.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com