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3d Printing Services In Pharmaceutical Industry

Molto Precise Machining Co.,Ltd | Updated: Jun 11, 2018

3D printing services in pharmaceutical industry

With the continuous development of 3D printing technology, it has been applied in many industries. But why is 3d printing service not widely used in the pharmaceutical industry? 3D printing may have some obstacles in this area, including determining how to make it economically viable. Although many important patents related to 3D printing have expired, and some 3D printers have become cheaper, the printers and inks required for 3D printing pills are not cheap. In addition, 3D printed pills are still under study. Even if these challenges are overcome, there are even greater potential difficulties in changing the supply chain, from centralized switching to local manufacturing and the supply of "ink" to achieve 3D printing of pills rather than the tablets themselves.

However, from some of the opportunities provided by this technology, it can be seen that 3D printing does not have to be fully adopted. It can be used to complement the company's existing manufacturing technologies.


Faster preclinical evaluation of new drugs! 3D printing allows customization of products by modifying CAD files for printing. It allows various iterations of the new drug to be manufactured more quickly and cheaply. In addition, biological 3D printed liver or kidney tissue may be used to evaluate new drugs.

New formulation for improved drug delivery! The first FDA-approved 3D printed pill is a known drug that is difficult to swallow using conventional techniques. The 3D printing technology enables it to be quickly broken down in the patient's mouth, making it easier for the body to ingest. For patients with multiple diseases, researchers are conducting 3D-printed "multi-pill" studies that combine multiple active ingredients for different diseases into a single pill. Other studies include the effect of tablet geometry on its dissolution.

Accurate/personalized medicine! The pills are customized for a specific patient, for example by modifying the CAD file for printing the pills. This pill may have fewer side effects and improve patient compliance.

Made locally! There is no need for factories to mass produce pills and distribute them. 3D printing may cause pharmacies to print drugs on demand. This may change the supply chain; as the cost of inventory and distribution decreases, the price of the drug may decrease.

Although 3D printing drugs have a positive side, there are also disadvantages.

The following are some of the intellectual property risks:

Frequent infringements? The shift from central manufacturing to local manufacturing may lead to frequent infringements and the prosecution costs are high.

Who is suing? According to prescriptions, pharmacies preparing instant medications for individual patients are not infringing. Therefore, pharmacists may benefit from 3D printed patent pills. The patentee can sue the supplier of the CAD file used to manufacture the infringing product. However, in view of the need to prove "essentially essential" (CAD files) and infringement (objects using CAD files for 3D printing) to prove that indirect patent infringement may be challenging, such cases have actually occurred in the United Kingdom.

CAD files are not found across boundaries! This complicates the enforcement of intellectual property rights. Material goods that infringe intellectual property rights may be seized by the customs.

What IP can cover 3D printed pills? Pharmaceutical companies adopting 3D printing should consider what intellectual property they can submit. Their existing patent portfolio may have been drafted to cover traditional manufacturing techniques for tablets rather than 3D printing. However, due to the lack of creativity, the patent claims for 3D printing recipes may not be valid, and therefore need careful consideration.

Prevention instead of treatment? Pharmaceutical companies should take immediate action to assess whether 3D printing can add value to their business and consider how to implement their plans (for example, by working with researchers). For some reason, when this technology takes off in a particular field, it may be too late to get on the trend.

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