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Written by Dr. Atheer Awad

Selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printing combines the benefits of high printing precision and capability, enabling the manufacture of medicines with unique engineering and functional properties. Its applications span across many fields, including the aerospace, automotive, military, medical, dentistry, engineering and electronics industries.

SLS is an adaptable technology suitable for printing a variety of dosage forms with unique geometric and release properties. This is because it offers a wide selection of materials with different inherent properties, which when combined with its superior printing resolution and ability to create free-form 3D objects, can be used to fine-tune the drug delivery system to its intended application.

In a recent paper, we reviewed the current state-of-the-art in SLS 3D printing, including the main principles underpinning this technology, highlighting the diverse selection of materials and essential parameters that influence printing. The technical challenges and processing conditions were also considered in the context of their effects on the printed product. We also discussed the different pharmaceutical applications of SLS 3D printing, providing an emphasis on the advantages the technology offers to drug product manufacturing and personalised medicine.

Of all the 3D printing techniques, we believe SLS has the highest potential of being scaled up for mass production and with its starting materials holding the closest resemblance to current pharmaceutical production technologies, it is highly amenable for adoption as a novel and versatile manufacturing tool for pharmaceutical fabrication. Whilst technical and quality control restraints have been the primary hinderance for its adoption within healthcare, preliminary research results appear promising.

Read our review here.