3-D Printing’s Accessibility: Good or Bad?

3-D Printing has become a revolutionary way to provide cheaper and more efficient healthcare to people due to how accessible it is. Although many people can benefit from being able to create cheaper – but just as efficient – products, when and how will our society be harmed from its convenience?

As long as you have a 3-D printer, material, and a design, it’s possible to create almost anything. The two first ingredients are already becoming more and more available, and designs can be easily uploaded and downloaded from websites such as Thingiverse.

I have always been aware that it would be very difficult to control what people can or cannot 3-D print, but I was optimistic and thought that the government would find a way to somehow control it.

However, a NY times article speaking about 3-D printed guns reports that, “The Department of Homeland Security anticipated this problem, sending a memo to law enforcement noting that ‘Limiting access may be impossible.’” I was shocked to hear that the DHS wouldn’t be able to do anything about it, but I soon realized that they may be right.

The article also explains that, “these weapons are very difficult to detect at security points, as they often don’t have metal parts … which could easily pass through a metal detector.” Not only are the 3-D designs of the guns difficult to control, but so are the physical guns themselves.

Another article from NPR explains how 3-D printing can be used to create DNA strands that can be used to medically treat patients or create more efficient genetically modified organisms.

Although most scientists use 3-D printed DNA for those purposes, some are worried that the public may use these processes to create their own organisms. Marcy Darnovsky – the director of the Center for Genetics and Society – points out, “Is that what we want? Do we want anybody, including potential terrorists, to be able to create entirely novel life forms – new creatures? Do we want that teenager next door to be creating Godzilla in the bathtub?”

The concerns about guns and fabricated organisms are definitely real, especially when there is little to no way to control these ideas. Governments and corporations have tried relentlessly to control illegally downloaded music and movies, yet most internet users can still find a way around it.

Media files already freely circulate the internet, but how will we react when, suddenly, so are files of guns and monsters? It’s distressing to think about how these shared 3-D designs can cause physical harm to us.

In my own experience, I was aware about the issues about design control, but had never really thought about these other factors that may play into it. I hadn’t thought about how impossible it sounds to control ideas on the internet, and what kind of things people could create with them. Do the benefits for 3-D printing really outweigh its dangers? Is accessibility – one of the key benefits of 3-D printing – something we should take away?

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The Public’s Opinion On The 3-D Printed Pill

In last week’s post, we talked about the approval, progress, and benefits of the newly created 3-D printed pill Spritam. Many of the articles that report on the news of the drug have sparked interesting debates in their comments section.

My general thought before reading these comments were that many people would be excited about how 3-D printing can help advance the medical field in this aspect. After looking through the comments, however, I came to see that there is quite a division in how people interpret these news.

Only a few of the comments people left talk about how they have hopes that the use of 3-D printing to create pills will be able to help patients with the cost and specificity of their drugs.

Marion Meads – a commenter from an NPR article – writes that, “Printing drugs has tremendous application potentials … Why haven’t they thought of this sooner? It’s an amazing idea!” Meads’ words suggest that a portion of the public has enthusiasm for the progress of 3-D printed pills.

Most readers, however, have doubt on whether this development will truly benefit society. One of the major issues discussed by the viewers was about how authorities will attempt to control and restrict the use of 3-D printers to make drugs.

For example, another user named TheAntiPill from the NPR website wrote that, “Any time a new technology comes out, I think of unintended consequences before possible benefits. Can people, given access to necessary ingredients, print pills at home, thus making the production and distribution of drugs that much easier?”

In addition to the concern about drug control, a few other viewers are also worried about the business aspects of this development. NPR user Tom Horsely comments, “No doubt this makes an ‘old’ drug new so the manufacturer can get a new exclusive patent for it without doing any real work.”

Along with Horsely, other like-minded users suspect that Aprecia Pharmaceuticals – the company that developed Spritam – is only changing the manufacturing of their drug to 3-D printing as an excuse to receive extended patent protection.

One other comment on the NPR article by a user named Listener RayDeo, however, brings attention to another issue that many others have seemed to ignore. His comment states, “the fabrication of drugs to deliver different features means that the FDA would effectively have to authorize each and every printer … Otherwise, the manufacturers liability immediately transfers to the entity printing the pill. Your local pharmacist… is probably already thinking… time to just sell food and knick-knacks.”

Listener RayDeo brings up an interesting point that questions how these 3-D printers will have to be regulated and how it affects the pharmacists that need to operate them. It makes us wonder, are people truly ready to accept this responsibility?

In general, most comments talk about the improvement of 3-D printing as an asset for manufacturing drugs, concerns about drug control, or worry about companies taking advantage of 3-D printing as a way to increase their own profits. With all these different opinions, it’s troubling to see how this issue may create a bigger division with future development. It’s also important, however, that both the developers and consumers acknowledge these doubts to ensure 3-D printing has a positive effect for society.

(Note: The image i used isn’t entirely relevant but.. I couldn’t find anything other than the image i used in the previous post that relates to the 3-D pill..)

FDA Approves The First 3D Printed Pill

If given the choice, would you take a 3-D printed pill? Recent news have shown that the US federal Food and Drug Administration has approved of the very first 3-D printed pill.

A company by the name of Aprecia Pharmaceuticals has developed a 3-D printed drug called Spritam that is used to help patients control seizures brought on by epilepsy. Aprecia Pharmaceuticals representative Jennifer Zieverink explains that using the 3-D printing process allows technicians to create pills that are more concentrated and dissolve easier.

Zieverink also reveals that Aprecia has gained interests from several other pharmaceutical companies that are looking to create their own 3-D printed pills. According to the article, “Aprecia has three other candidates for 3-D printing in the pipeline.”

Although the 3-D printed drug Spritam may seem to have some benefits, why are so many companies and individuals interested in it? It turns out that these 3-D printed drugs have a great potential to create even more benefits for its users.

The process of 3-D printing – true to their original purpose – used to create pills can also be extremely customizable. The ease of use and flexibility of 3-D printing can allow pharmaceutical companies to create pills that cater to specific patients and adjust doses as needed. The ability to create pills for specific patients also allows pharmacists to create a single pill that contain several different drugs, allowing patients to consume less pills for their medication.

These improvements not only make taking pills faster and more convenient, but also helps patients that have difficulty taking their medication. The article even states that, “it could open the door for things like pills that could be modeled in the shape of a cute animal, or something else that would be easier for kids.”

In my own opinion, I think this is a great development for all people that need to take pills. The ability to combine drugs together into a single pill would greatly help people who find taking medicine an inconvenience or feel discouraged by having to take many different pills. It could also help children, who usually dislike taking medicine, healthy.

I do, however, also have some concerns on whether or not this development would be safe for society. It’s a bit troubling to wonder about how many people may take advantage of creating drugs with 3-D printing, especially since it’s becoming more common in society.

In general, I would really like to see how this develops further and how it can benefit people’s lives in other different ways. I would also like to see what precautions will be taken in order to regulate the production of drugs from 3-D printers to make sure that this development helps society rather than create more problems.

3D Printing’s Growing Development And Why We Should Care

3-D printing is slowly starting to affect our lives in more ways than one.

It has been used in countless different ways ranging from creating small trinkets to entire vehicles. Though these may not sound directly important – or even affordable – to us, 3-D printing is indeed relevant to us, and may be the ones that save our lives one day. With the growing development in health-related 3-D printing, it is important that we are aware of its benefits and controversies.

So what exactly is 3-D printing? An article explains that it was initially invented in the 1980s by Charles (Chuck) Hull, an American technologist that established a company by the name of 3D systems.

Hull developed 3-D printing as the process of creating solid objects by layering a specific material over and over again. This unique process was designed and used to let its user have the customizability in order to create complex solid objects.

3-D printing had been invented in the 1980s, so why is this technology still not being widely used? The large issue with the common usage of 3-D printing was its lack of efficiency and accessibility. Several companies, however, have been developing ways to solve these problems.

A New York Times article reports that technology company Hewlett-Packard has been trying to develop 3-D printers that make 3-D printing easier, faster, and more affordable. The company’s ultimate goal with their development in these 3-D printers is to be able to turn it into a household appliance.

With the growing need for accessible and affordable healthcare, the development of 3-D printing for medical uses sounds almost like a perfect fit. Scientists and engineers have already been taking advantage of 3-D printing’s flexibility and affordability to help people in need.

3-D printing can be used directly by the patient by allowing them to use 3-D printed prosthetic limbs. Traditional electronic prosthetics are extremely expensive, costing thousands of dollars, and can be hard to manage. 3-D printed prosthetics in comparison are much more affordable, and can even cost as little as $20 or $50 for a 3-D printed prosthetic hand. The article above describes how these are especially important to children who quickly outgrow and need to replace their prosthetics frequently.

3-D printing can also be used to create tools that make medical procedures more effective and efficient. An article talks about how London-based scientists have developed a way to improve cancer treatments with 3-D printing. The idea is to create a 3-D model of cancerous tumors based on CT scans, which can later be filled with fluid to see how the tumor may respond to some medications. This procedure could greatly help cancer patients, since their difficult treatment is due to the individuality of their cases.

Another powerful use for 3-D printing technology is its use to create not only environmentally friendly technology, but also in an environmentally friendly way. Kevin Czinger’s idea to create an eco-friendly 3-D printed car had built on his idea that the material, manufacturing, and use of normal cars are destroying the environment. 3-D printing’s environmental benefits can also positively improve our lives in this aspect.

With the rise of uses for 3-D printing, it is important that we keep ourselves informed on a technology that may very well shape our future. Can 3-D printing really be accessible for everyone? What other benefits does it have? Are there any controversies that we must be aware about in order to make sure this technology is widely accepted? These are only a couple of the questions that I aim to research and answer in this blog.