Part 2 of Total 3D News’ ongoing project: “3D Printing the Human Body”
Back in February 2012, doctors from Belgium and Holland announced that they had created and transplanted what is considered to be the first 3D printed jaw implant. The operation itself, however, actually took place in June 2011, with the delay in reporting probably a result of doubts about whether the final process would be successful or not.
As for the implant itself, it was custom designed for an 83-year-old woman and made out of titanium powder by the additive manufacturer LayerWise. As might be expected when utilizing metals for 3D printing, the construction methodology of choice was selective laser sintering, fusing together particles of titanium one layer at a time through short, high-energy laser bursts. Then the part was given a final bioceramic coating, which utilizes a biocompatible material already popularized in the production of artificial teeth and bones.
The idea for such an implant came from research performed at the Biomedical Research Institute at Hasselt University in Belgium; where researchers had to figure out not only how to model a perfectly customized 3D jaw, but also how to create a prosthetic that would aid the body in establishing new muscle attachments. This meant perfecting articulated joints, strategically placing cavities to promote muscle attachment, and even special grooves that will direct the regrowth of veins and nerves along the jaw.
“The advantages are that the surgery time decreases because the implants perfectly fit the patients and hospitalisation [sic] time also lowers – all reducing medical costs”
—Ruben Wauthle, Medical Application Engineer for LayerWise
Thus, the operation’s success certainly suggests that 3D printing technology will play a key role in the future production of personalized prosthetics – and perhaps one day the 3D production of living cell transplants too.
Below is a video from LayerWise showing the process of constructing the 3D Printed Jaw: