An Overview of 3D Printing Technologies for Soft Materials and Potential Opportunities for Lipid-based Drug Delivery Systems

Kapilkumar Vithani, Alvaro Goyanes, Vincent Jannin, Abdul W. Basit, Simon Gaisford, Ben J. Boyd

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Three-dimensional printing (3DP) is a rapidly growing additive manufacturing process and it is predicted that the technology will transform the production of goods across numerous fields. In the pharmaceutical sector, 3DP has been used to develop complex dosage forms of different sizes and structures, dose variations, dose combinations and release characteristics, not possible to produce using traditional manufacturing methods. However, the technology has mainly been focused on polymer-based systems and currently, limited information is available about the potential opportunities for the 3DP of soft materials such as lipids. 

Methods: This review paper emphasises the most commonly used 3DP technologies for soft materials such as inkjet printing, binder jetting, selective laser sintering (SLS), stereolithography (SLA), fused deposition modeling (FDM) and semi-solid extrusion, with the current status of these technologies for soft materials in biological, food and pharmaceutical applications. 

Result: The advantages of 3DP, particularly in the pharmaceutical field, are highlighted and an insight is provided about the current studies for lipid-based drug delivery systems evaluating the potential of 3DP to fabricate innovative products. Additionally, the challenges of the 3DP technologies associated with technical processing, regulatory and material issues of lipids are discussed in detail. 

Conclusion: The future utility of 3DP for printing soft materials, particularly for lipid-based drug delivery systems, offers great advantages and the technology will potentially support patient compliance and drug effectiveness via a personalised medicine approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Number of pages20
JournalPharmaceutical Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • 3D printed drug products
  • additive manufacturing
  • lipid-based drug delivery systems
  • personalised medicines
  • printing pharmaceuticals
  • soft materials

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