3D printing is in the process of revolutionizing almost every industry you can think of, but how much longer until it will be possible to 3D print prescription drugs? Drug Discovery Today published Taiwanese researcher, Calvin-Yu-Chian Chen’s article titled: “DrugPrinter: print any drug instantly”, which illustrates a 3D molecular level printer that can print drugs compound atom by atom.Chen writes “it’s fast, 100%yield, and no byproducts”. He then goes on to say “This type of fast, precise, without by product, reagent-sparing, environmentally friendly, small-volume, large-variety, nanofabrication technique will totally subvert the current view on the manufactured object and lead to a huge revolution in pharmaceutical companies in the very near future”. Chen states that this technology should be feasible within 20 years and that theyshould have a prototype of the DrugPrinter within 5 years.
You may ask, how does something like this work?
Chen explains, “The DrugPrinter, is divided into four parts. (a) Is the element storage, just like a printer toner cartridge from a color laser printer. The chamber for element storage will be divided into three parts based on the character of each atom–basically according to the catalog of elements from the periodic table. Roughly, there are three categories: nonmetals, metals and transition metals.
(b) Is the pipeline for atom transfer to the next stage.
In (c) there are two ways for the atom to fly into the specific position. Plasma or a laser will to make the atom fly to let the optical tweezers catch it. The optical tweezers (c) will catch and control an atom to the right position.
The atom will need to be put in the specific position, hence there are six optical tweezers for 3D moving control. Thus, the atom is moved to the specific position (d), which is the tiny pan- cake reactors, for to fabricate the de novo compound or nanomaterial, for which the chemical structure has been drawn in a computer”.
Assembling chemical compounds on the molecular level using a chemical 3D printer would revolutionize even more industries than what it is currently transforming. Just think, you could just go to the drug store with your digital prescription, buy the chemical blue print and pre-sealed chemical “ink” and just print the desired drug at home.