The injector would have taken a year to make, using traditional design and manufacturing methods. However, according to
Print your own medicine
Perhaps the most staggering application for 3D printing and surely among the most exciting for
"The idea is that we want to have a universal set of [chemical] inks," Cronin explained to the audience, "that we put out with the printer and you download the blueprint - the organic chemistry - for that molecule and you make it in the device." This means, he added, that "ultimately you can print your own medicine."
In one technological stroke, the dominance of the pharmaceutical giants is diminished. Distribution channels will be bypassed. For decades, expensive patented drugs were out of the reach of many millions of Africans. But there now exists the very real possibility that in the near future, no matter how remote and inaccessible you are, an illness can be diagnosed and a drug can be made available within hours, and all for a cost considerably less than that of today.
Cronin went on to describe a future where a patient's stem cells are analysed, and a drug tailored for that individual and not for the mass market can be made, which would be simply too expensive to do employing conventional methods.
It is exciting also to imagine the prospect of an outbreak of a novel 'superbug' such as SARS or an attack of cholera being analysed and mapped and a drug to combat it being designed and put online, leaving the printer's operator to Google it.
One can readily imagine an NGO buying and distributing 3D printers for this purpose and training local people to operate them, keeping them stocked with chemical ink and neatly sidestepping the common and expensive problems of distributing drugs to far-flung communities.
Of course, there is also the inevitability that just as young people are making fortunes designing apps for smartphones in their bedrooms, so chemistry graduates will sell the blueprints for designer drugs intended for purely recreational purposes and not necessarily even illegally.
3D printing is not without controversy, though, and has proved to be a challenge for law makers in the US, who ordered designs for a 3D gun to be taken down.
The design was downloaded 100,000 times before it was made unavailable. However, it is thought those files have been copied and redistributed many thousands of more times.
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