3D Printing Technology: a View from the Pharmaceutical Perspective

October 10th, 2018 - 0 Comments

What Is 3D Printing and How Does It Work?

3-Dimensional (3D) Printing is a digital process that generates 3D objects, layer over layer, using a variety of polymers. It is also known as Additive Manufacturing (AM).

Objects are composed using digital model data from a 3D model and can be of almost any shape or geometry. When it comes to the pharmaceutical industry, 3D relies on CAD (Computer Aided Design) to achieve utmost flexibility, time saving, and exceptional manufacturing capabilities.

It impels with constructing a virtual design of the object using CAD Software. The CAD information is then sent to the printer, which procreates the object by depositing the material layer over layer, and simultaneously defers solidification.


1. Pharmaceutical R&D and Manufacturing

3D Printing will absolutely revolutionize the way pharma operates. The printing of tissues and viable organs for drug testing purposes is very likely to remodel pharmaceutical companies’ R&D process in the forthcoming decade, which may eventually lead to patients printing their own prescriptions, as marked by the huge investment from government agencies and a keener interest from pharmaceutical companies.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has initiated efforts to foresee the approach to approve 3D printed products, especially for medical devices.

The dominant business model transformations are just in the vicinity.

The Advantages over Present Technologies

– Conceivably shorter delivery times for medication

– Lower inventory charges

– Shrunk costs of pharma’s bottom line that would upgrade pharma profits

2. Pharmaceutical Drug Delivery

3D Printing technology unlocks the door to a modern eon of advanced drug delivery with innate compliance, which is well fitted for personalized/customized medicines, especially oral dosage forms (ODFs).

The fabrication of 3D objects can be accomplished through a number of 3DP techniques like Inkjet Based Fabrication, Direct-Write, Zipdose, Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) Printing, and Fused Deposition Modelling.

3D Printing in pharmaceutical drug delivery would excel greatly in the domain of personalized medicines where medication could be customized as per the demand of treatment, which will aid doctors and pharmacists to bestow ‘custom-made medicines for each patient’. This will continue to reform the development of new generations of safe and effective pharmaceutical formulations.

Moreover, hospitals and pharmacies could create formulations at their own premises, eliminating the need to trite vast quantities of products. They would also be able to harvest specialized or anomalous compounds in-house, saving patients a considerable wait, and feasibly saving more lives in time-sensitive critical situations.

The Advantages over Present Technologies

– 3D Printing optimizes the dose of drugs, thereby improving drug efficacy, and minimizing toxicity and side effects

– Easy manufacturing of oral dosage forms with varying dosage and specific designed release profiles

– Generation of oral dosage forms containing multiple APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients) with designed internal structure (e.g. micro channels).

– High and efficient production rates

– Minimum material wastage that can save the cost of production

The Challenges

– Huge scale of investment required

– Selection of appropriate excipients and polymers

3. Pharmaceutical Logistics and Supply Chain

The supply chain of pharmaceutical companies could witness extensive transformations like reduced or eliminated assembly lines, and shorter supply chains for many products due to 3D printing, which will switch the aftermarket service wholly. Large regional warehouses could be reintegrated by small facilities with on-site 3D printing production as the products could be synthesized-to-order (printed on trade) without the extremity to have extensive inventories of both new products and spare slabs.

3D Printing could help fix a cost effective, leaner, and efficient supply chain, and prick the formation of a circular economy.

The Advantages over Present Technologies

– Not being bound by the economies of scale, i.e., the cost of producing one unit or one hundred is the same as it does not require pervasive manufacturing infrastructure

– Flexibility and scalability

– Low costs and prices

The Challenges

– The supply chain length

– Inventory levels

– Risks and delivery reliability (delivery without errors in time, price, place, quality, or quantity)

The technology is not yet out in the open, however, in the near future pharmaceuticals could be printed with a 3D printer. In this case, the boon to the pharmaceutical industry may be tremendous.

                                “There Is Nothing Wrong with Change, if it is in the Right Direction.”

                                                                                                                                          ~Winston Churchill

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