Dubai Health Authority planning to 3D print artificial limbs for amputees

Emirate seeks to use the technology to propel the growth of its healthcare sector.

A skull is displayed at the 3-D Medical Printing stand during the Arab Health Conference in Dubai in January. Satish Kumar / The National
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Dubai is turning to three-dimensional printing to transform people’s lives.

The Dubai Health Authority has announced plans to create prosthetic limbs for patients for less than Dh400.

By 2025, doctors will have access to 3-D printing machines to create ceramic teeth in less than 20 minutes. The technology is also used in orthopaedic surgery and to print casts.

The authority said the use of 3-D printing could accelerate patients’ healing process by up to 80 per cent.

Dubai has been using the technology of 3-D printing to create architectural models, now the technology is poised to become a key component of the emirate’s future.

Last week, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, opened a futuristic office for 3-D printing technology – the first of its kind in the world.

It followed the launch of the International Centre for 3-D Printing at Dubai Industrial City this month.

Humaid Al Qatami, chairman and director general of the Dubai Health Authority, said the technology would play an important role in medical services within a decade.

“The strategy ultimately aims to make Dubai excel in different medical surgeries,” he said. “It will focus on using 3-D printing in biomedicine and will aim to develop medical 3-D-printed products and 3-D-related research.”

The value of 3-D-printed medical products in Dubai was expected to top Dh1.3 billion by 2025, said Mr Al Qatami.

In Britain, the National Health Service has been using 3-D-printed models to treat patients.

For instance, doctors at Guy’s Hospital in London printed a 3-D model of a patient’s prostate, produced using MRI measurements, to help guide them through a robotic surgery to remove a tumour.

The 3-D model cost Dh1,000. The hospital had also used 3-D models of a girl’s abdomen and her father’s kidney to aid transplant surgery.

As the cost of 3-D printing falls and technology becomes more accessible, medical and surgical techniques are expected to have a significant impact on health care.

Burn victims have already benefited from developments in 3-D-printed skin, and 3-D-printed airway splints have been used in children with health conditions that make their lungs prone to collapse. 3-D-printed implants are cheap to produce and can be made quickly.

“We plan on using the latest technologies as well as partnering with organisations who have experience in the field of 3-D printing to find solutions for medical challenges,” said Saif Al Aleeli, chief executive of the Dubai Future Foundation, which will use the office for 3-D printing technology.

Dubai Holding runs the International Centre for 3-D Printing, which seeks to bring together a network of design and technology suppliers, as well as factories.

Targeted mainly at construction, medicine and consumer products, the centre will include research and development centres and laboratories for testing materials used in 3-D-printed products.

It is hoped that the centre would host more than 700 companies.