3D Printing in Drug Development: Quickly Becoming a Possibility

At some point in our lives, we’ve likely experienced standing in long lines at the pharmacy just to buy medicine. Sometimes, it can even get extremely frustrating and tiring.

Well, sometime in the near future, there won’t be any need to wait in line at pharmacies because medicines can be made in the comfort of people’s homes. That is all possible because of a 3D printer that a group of researchers has tailored to produce pharmaceuticals and other chemicals.

3D Printing in Drug Development


3D Printing and its Application

3D printing, which is also called additive manufacturing, is currently transforming various industries. It generally refers to making three-dimensional solid objects by means of layering materials on top of one another.

Below you will find a few of the most innovative 3D printing applications to date:

  • Aviation

3D printing has found its niche in aircraft manufacturing; for instance, some companies have started using 3D printing in manufacturing small parts of their Airbus aircraft.

  • Engineering

3D printing has also made a significant impact on the engineering industry, creating parts for racing cars as well as for model cars used for testing purposes.

  • Healthcare

Healthcare is also being greatly influenced by 3D printing. It is now being used in manufacturing prosthetics and in the pre-planning part of complex surgeries.

  • Architecture

Another industry that is being influenced by 3D printing is architecture. In fact, it might not be long before 3D-printed houses become mainstream.

  • Automotive

3D printing has also been used in the automotive industry, specifically in the creation of 3D-printed cars and car parts. One good example would be Strafe, the world’s first 3D-printed electric car.

  • Fashion

Aside from manufacturing vehicle parts and model houses, 3D printing has also been employed in manufacturing 3D-printed clothing and footwear.

3D Printers that can Possibly Mass Manufacture Pharmaceuticals

Using a number of water bottle-sized reactors, 3D printers are used to manufacture pharmaceuticals and other chemicals from simple and prolific starting compounds. Now, this could certainly digitize chemistry and let users manufacture virtually any compound anywhere in the globe.

3D printing is already being used in various industries, manufacturing anything from clothes and shoes to blood vessels and vehicle parts. As a matter of fact, a few years ago, some chemists have successfully created small-scale chemical reactors. However, these reactors are designed to be incorporated into manufacturing plants in order to improve how safe and efficient they operate; they are not stand-alone devices.

A chemist named Leroy Cronin wanted a stand-alone device that could allow non-specialists to make drugs and other chemicals. His first attempt was a 2012 paper written for Nature Chemistry where he and his colleagues discussed something called a reactionware, 3D-printed chemical reactors that contain catalysts and other components required to achieve specific reactions. In order to manufacture a variety of simple compounds, such as ethylbenzene, Cronin’s team had to simply add the starting compounds.

At present, Cronin’s team have successfully printed a series of interconnected reactors that can perform four different chemical reactions, from filtering to evaporating various mixtures and produce medicines, including a drug to help fight ulcers and acid reflux.

Benefits of 3D-printed Reactionware

Aside from being able to save many lives, 3D-printed reactionwares could aid in ultimately crushing drug counterfeiting, which is a huge global problem. Also, it could help ensure that medicines are made as advertised.

Whether drug regulating-agencies will go along with this new approach remains to be seen. They will have to rewrite the rules for validating the safety of the medicine.

It is indeed a hurdle, but it doesn’t change the fact that these reactors could definitely revolutionize how companies manufacture medicines from now on.

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