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STOA project on Additive Biomanufacturing

Customized, economic, exact – the possibilities of 3D printing seem to be promising for the biomedical sector too. ITAS coordinates a consortium to research the new technology on behalf of the European Parliament.
individual hand prosthesis made by a 3D printer
One of numerous bio AM applications: individual hand prosthesis made by a 3D printer. (Source pixabay / CC0 Public Domain)

The manufacturing of individual, preferably cost-efficient products gains increasing importance in the biomedical sector. Therefore the use of 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing) could be especially promising in this sector. Possible fields of application do not only include biological implants like organs and tissue, but also nutrients, drugs, and substances as well as their respective transport mechanisms. Even the precision-fit production of medical equipment like surgical instruments and drill guides or even the printing of individual prosthesis, support frames, or exoskeletons are conceivable.

The numerous possible uses for additive manufacturing in biomedicine (bio AM) are the subject of a new project which ITAS conducts on behalf of the STOA panel of the European Parliament. International project partners are the Danish Board of Technology (DBT), the Institute of Technology Assessment at the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ITA), the Rathenau Instituut (RI), and Responsible Technology (RT).

Future trends and possible scenarios

Together with external experts, the scientists systematically analyze the state of technology of these applications and the related regulatory questions. Future trends are also in the focus, for example the special emphasis on socio-technological ideas like in science fiction and their possible use in the field of "human enhancement" – the improvement of human performance by intervening into the human body with technological means.

Based on this a 360° envisioning approach is carried out – also supported by external experts. It is part of a so-called foresight process and allows a more detailed study of selected bio AM applications. The process is completed with designs for future scenarios which should demonstrate possible impacts and the political challenges of the AM applications to the members of the European Parliament. (07.11.2016)

Further information

  • "Additive bio-manufacturing" project page at the ITAS web page
  • Website of the Panel for Science and Technology Options Assessment (STOA) of the European Parliament