3D printing, a term often used synonymously with additive manufacturing, is a process of creating objects from three-dimensional digital information. In most cases, 3D printing is, in fact, additive manufacturing, a process in which objects are built by adding material layer by layer. This process has several advantages over traditional manufacturing methods such as injection molding or subtractive manufacturing relevant to medicine and surgery including the possibility of making uniquely customized objects for patients, rapidly prototyping objects, and often easier creation of complex and/or hollow objects.
3D printing has been used in anatomical models for surgical planning, surgical tools, splints, implantable medical devices, prostheses and even pharmaceutical drugs. 3D printed objects have some distinct features even compared to three-dimensional virtual reconstructions in terms of surgical planning 4, allowing surgeons to not only see but touch models (created based on the specific patient's imaging studies) of the areas they plan to operate.
4D printing is an emerging technology that can be conceptualized as 3D printing that produces objects that change over time or under certain conditions.
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