Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) has teamed up with HP ($HPQ) to work on the 3-D printing of personalized healthcare products. The partners are presenting the alliance as a way to advance toward an era in which 3-D printing enables the quick manufacturing of products tailored to the needs of individuals.
HP and J&J’s first task is the personalization of instruments and software related to patient-specific health devices. This is seen as a stepping stone on the path to J&J’s larger ambitions for 3-D printing. Ultimately, the healthcare giant sees 3-D printing as one of several technologies that, in combination, can facilitate a major overhaul in the production process and supply chain of products in orthopedics, eye health and other fields.
“Combined with advances in data mining and software, 3-D printing could enable distributed manufacturing models and patient-specific products, therapies and solutions that deliver better outcomes, better economics and improved global accessibility,” J&J Group Worldwide Chairman Sandra Peterson said in a statement. In this vision, a disaggregated network of 3-D printers would partly replace centralized manufacturing sites, facilitating the production of customized drugs and devices.
This vision is still some way from becoming a reality. The FDA issued draft guidance on the 3-D printing of medical devices last week--and approved a drug manufactured using the technique in March--but the approach is yet to go mainstream.
J&J, for its part, is working on multiple fronts to change this. The alliance with HP comes months after J&J unveiled a collaboration with Carbon 3D to use 3-D printing to produce customized surgical devices. And back in 2014, J&J began working with Organovo to 3-D print living tissues for use in drug development.