Computer-Aided Design (CAD) used with 3D printing and Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) are impacting biomedical engineering, including the production of customized medical implants, artificial joints and robotic surgery.
While the technologies are generally related, there are distinctions:
- CAD uses data from imaging systems to create 3D visualizations, models and recreations of complex human hard and soft tissue with microscopic accuracy.
- 3D printing has S. Food and Drug Administration approval to use CAD models to develop instrumentation, patient-specific implants and external prostheses.
- CAM technology also uses CAD models to create precise, patient-specific implants such as cranial plates and surgical templates for implantations, tumor resection, osteotomy and bone repositioning.
CAD, CAM and 3D printing software and technologies address two overarching issues. First, patients want to complete treatment as rapidly as possible without sacrificing the quality of outcomes. Second, healthcare providers want to increase the quality of their services to meet growing demand while reducing costs.
“These requirements can only be met through the application of more advanced and more automated technology,” according to American Machinist.
How Is CAD Used in BioMed?
Researchers and developers use advanced CAD tools to model biological phenomena and present them in an immersive and virtual reality context.
CAD software uses data from magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography and other advanced imaging technologies to develop 3D models to prepare for implant surgery, prosthetic integration with bones, soft tissue and internal organs.
Because the models are created from individual patients’ imaging, they help surgeons and patients assess the risk of potential surgery, perform the surgery with digital precision and ensure the CAM device fits the patients’ unique and complex anatomy perfectly.
Other advances in biomed applications that depend on CAD/CAM technology include:
- Simulations: Collaboration among medical, research and technological industries has produced realistic models that simulate tissue systems and human organs. Used in academic settings, the software enables students to develop medical and surgical skills in a virtual reality version of exact anatomical structures.
- Prosthetics: Artificial limbs enable amputees to regain their range of motion and mobility. Still, the device’s effectiveness depends largely on how well it aligns with the patient’s anatomy and bone structure. CAD/CAM software ensures a perfect fit leading to faster recovery and rehabilitation.
- Pharmaceuticals: CAD/CAM applications in drug research and development involve modeling at the molecular level. Researchers use it to study the biochemical interactions of drugs on the biochemical anatomy of the human body on a molecular level. The simulations ensure maximum efficacy and reduced side effects.
“With increasing capabilities in 3D CAD designs and modeling, we might also witness the 3D printing of human tissue, blood and organs which can revolutionize the organ transplant industry which is plagued with long waiting periods,” according to 3DNPD.com, a 3D printing consultant.
What Are the Career Prospects in Biomedical Engineering?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts demand for biomedical engineers will increase by 10% through 2030, faster than average, leading U.S. News & World Report to rank it as the No. 5 engineering career.
A Master of Science (M.S.) in Electronics Engineering with a Track In Biomedical Engineering, such as the
program offered online by Norfolk State University, sets graduates up for careers in this fast-growing, lucrative field.
Norfolk State equips its graduates with expertise, insights and skills to utilize CAD tools for design entry and simulation. The program’s curriculum focuses on the following:
- Biomed engineering concepts and theories of sensing and modulation purposes, operation mechanisms and application of microsensors and modulators
- Application of mathematical tools and software to recognize and evaluate digital signal processing, electromagnetics and microelectronic devices
- Electrical engineering principles relative to the proper functioning of human bioelectric systems, modeling and diagnosis
“This demand is expected to go up as the population ages and more people retire and need more intensive healthcare to help them,” according to Zippia, a career consultant.
An advanced degree in electronics and biomedical engineering gives professionals a competitive edge and high-demand skills in CAD, CAM and 3D technology.