Generally speaking, drug production takes place at gigantic pharma corporations which have invested millions of dollars in equipment, with streamlined processes.
However, 3D printers have the potential to shake up the industry according to researchers at the University of Glasgow.
Utilizing something as small as a $2,000 off-the-shelf 3D printer, people can actually create something called “reactionware,” essentially small reactors capable of producing drugs.
This process means people could essentially 3D print ibuprofen at home, but more importantly it gives doctors in developing countries the ability to quickly curtail outbreaks if necessary.
It took researchers six years to get to this point, which involves the 3D printer utilizing water-bottle sized vessels that can carry out four different chemical reactions in 12 steps, including filter and evaporation.
By adding different solvents and reagents at specific times in the process, doctors can basically create whatever type of drug they want to.
The paper notes, the chemicals themselves could kept in “self-contained cartridges, requiring limited user interaction to produce the desired products on demand.”
Obviously, there are many hurdles to overcome before this becomes a reality, most notably the fact the process could be used to make illegal drugs, but for now it is an intriguing breakthrough which has a ton of potential.