People looking to use printer supplies for 3D machines at home may find the technology offers new applications in the field of healthcare.
Researchers at the University of Glasgow have developed a prototype device that can produce drugs and other chemicals to unique specifications, the BBC reports.
They suggested versions of the machine could become a common sight to patients within the next 20 years due to its ability to create personalised drugs on demand.
Member of the team Mark Symons explained to the news provider that by taking chemical constituents and passing them through the printer, the scientists were able to use it as a chemical synthesizer that transforms the input into a new compound.
"In the future you could buy common chemicals, slot them into something that 3D prints, just press a button to mix the ingredients and filter them through the architecture and at the bottom you would get out your prescription drug," he suggested.
The process involves the use of a robotically-controlled syringe that builds an object out of a gel-like 'ink' substance, into which chemicals are mixed.
Now that the concept has been proven, the next steps are to attempt to replicate drugs currently available in pharmacies and improve the speeds and resolution of the device.
If this is successful, the researchers claim it has the potential to revolutionise the healthcare industry by placing expensive pharmaceutical engineering facilities within reach of smaller enterprises and improving access to medicine in developing countries.
The group suggested doctors and individuals could eventually download preset 'recipes' or tailor medicines to their individual needs.
Creating drugs is not the only healthcare use to which 3D printing technologies has been put to recently. In the past few months, scientists have demonstrated new techniques that enable the machines to create artificial bones, while a patient in the Netherlands became the first person to receive a 3D-printed artificial jaw transplanted.