Method, Material, and Machine: A Review for the Surgeon Using Three-Dimensional Printing for Accelerated Device Production

Helen Xun, Scott Clarke, Nusaiba Baker, Christopher Shallal, Erica Lee, Darya Fadavi, Alison Wong, Gerald Brandacher, Sung Hoon Kang, Justin M. Sacks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Physicians are at the forefront of identifying innovative targets to address current medical needs. 3D printing technology has emerged as a state-of-the-art method of prototyping medical devices or producing patient-specific models that is more cost-efficient, with faster turnaround time, in comparison to traditional prototype manufacturing. However, initiating 3D printing projects can be daunting due to the engineering learning curve, including the number of methodologies, variables, and techniques for printing from which to choose. To help address these challenges, we sought to create a guide for physicians interested in venturing into 3D printing. Study Design: All commercially available, plug-and-play, material and stereolithography printers costing less than $15,000 were identified via web search. Companies were contacted to obtain quotes and information sheets for all printer models. The qualifying printers’ manufacturer specification sheets were reviewed, and pertinent variables were extracted. Results: We reviewed 309 commercially available printers and materials and identified 118 printers appropriate for clinicians desiring plug-and-play models for accelerated device production. We synthesized this information into a decision-making tool to choose the appropriate parameters based on project goals. Conclusions: There is a growing clinical need for medical devices to reduce costs of care and increase access to personalized treatments; however, the learning curve may be daunting for surgeons. In this review paper, we introduce the “3Ms of 3D printing” for medical professionals and provide tools and data sheets for selection of commercially available, affordable, plug-and-play 3D printers appropriate for surgeons interested in innovation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)726-737.e19
JournalJournal of the American College of Surgeons
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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