That’s because researchers have tailored a 3D printer to synthesize pharmaceuticals and other chemicals from simple, widely available starting compounds fed into a series of water bottle-size reactors.
The reactors are designed to be integrated into manufacturing plants to improve their efficiency and safety, says Christian Hornung, a chemical engineer and 3D printing expert at CSIRO Manufacturing in Melbourne, Australia.
In today’s issue of , Cronin and his colleagues report printing a series of interconnected reaction vessels that carry out four different chemical reactions involving 12 separate steps, from filtering to evaporating different solutions.
So why not just buy a reactionware kit and scrap the printing? “This approach will allow the on-demand production of chemicals and drugs that are in short supply, hard to make at big facilities, and allow customization to tailor them to the application,” Cronin says.
Counterfeit drugs are estimated to make up as much as 30% of medicines in some developing countries and cost legitimate pharmaceutical companies up to $200 billion per year.
Distributed chemical manufacturing, Cronin argues, could ensure that drugs are made as advertised, because each reactionware setup would only be able to produce a single medicine.
Agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will need to rewrite their rules for validating the safety of medicines.