University College London (UCL) have developed an exciting new 3D printing technique: “volumetric 3D printing” that lets the pharmaceutical industry customize drugs – including shape, size, dosage, and release – according to each patient’s individual needs.


In turn, medical professionals may eventually be able to use 3D printing to “print” prescription drugs for patients in-office in the future. Not only does 3D printing promise to improve personalized medicine, but it’s also set to drastically cut cost and waste in the process. 

Solving race and gender inequalities with personalized medicine

3D printing may reduce or eliminate the problem of race and gender inequality in prescription drug manufacturing. “Currently, medications are developed especially for white adult men, which means that all women and children have an excessive prescription for their bodies”, explains Fred Parietti, PhD, co-founder and CEO of Multiply Labs, a developer of advanced robotics technology that manufactures personalized prescription drugs.

“This fact underlines the importance of the advent of personalized medicines, as well as highlighting the individuality of each patient, since the error in the dosage of certain active ingredients can even lead to the malfunctioning of some treatments”.

3D printing for drug production in its early days

The use of 3D printing for drug production, although a promising development, is still in its early days. In contrast, a host of other industries already successfully use 3D printing in product development and manufacturing.

Desktop Health Etec and Rapidshape, for example, have developed 3D dental printers to successfully facilitate industrial production of dental parts. Alternatively, Desktop Metal have created Forust: a 3D printer that produces digitally rematerialized wood.

An eco-friendly alternative to conventional wood manufacturing, Forust’s 3D printed wood looks just like the real thing, while also being durable and possessing a much smaller carbon footprint.

Forging the way

When it comes to pharmaceuticals, Spritam (levetiracetam) is currently the only 3D printed pharmaceutical drug on the market in the US. Developed by Aprecia Pharmaceuticals, Spritam is an anti-epileptic drug first approved by the FDA in 1999.

Alternatively, Aprecia, a global leader in 3D printing pharmaceutical manufacturing, has patented ZipDose: a unique drug-delivery technology platform that allows for the printing of high-dose, fast-melt pills. ZipDose is currently the only 3D printing platform for mass drug production that’s been accredited by the FDA.

There’s also M3DIMAKER, a 3D printer for personalized medicine designed by FabRx, which is a promising biotech start-up based out of UCL. M3DIMAKER uses special software that facilitates the pill dosage customization. It can even print polypills, which contain a combination of different medications within a single pill.

A number of other companies are also working on developing 3D printing of pharmaceuticals, including GlaxoSmithKline and Triastek – with the latter possessing “41 patents that account for more than 20 percent of global 3D printing pharmaceuticals applications”.

3D printing technology promises to revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry. With UCL’s new volumetric 3D printing technique, in particular, personalized medicine can be improved for each and every patient.