Medical Implants One of the Biggest Uses of 3D Printing in Australia

by michael slavica April 08, 2016

Australian man receives first metal 3d printed Jaw

By now you've likely heard of the convenience and improved quality of living that 3D printing can bring to Australian residents. From simple things like manufacturing a lost remote control cover in minutes to “fun” projects like creating custom shoes for your child's dolls the only real boundaries on the technology are your imagination. That being said, 3D printing is also a very functional trade such as fabricating prototypes in the metal manufacturing field but perhaps most importantly for use in the medical field.

Losing a limb or having an accident or illness that requires reconstructive surgery can be a very difficult period in a person's life to say the least. Something that compounds that frustration and depression is the extensive time a patient spends waiting for devices such as implants or prosthetic to be manufactured and then custom fitted to their body. 3D printing has proven to be a game changer in this line of the medical industry as it has literally cut down that wait time to hours, if not minutes.

Granted, the days when a construction worker loses a finger in an accident and comes in to the hospital for an instant replacement are still down the line quite a bit. That being said, a breakthrough came in June 2015 when an Australian man became the first in the world to receive a 3D printed titanium prosthetic jaw. Doctors are viewing this as an incredible innovation that could be used in the future for both life-saving surgeries and to help increase the comfort of customers receiving prosthetic implants.

To understand how 3D printing works with an implant it helps to familiarize yourself with structural engineering as used in construction. Similar to how a truss design creates the shape and contour of a building's roof, these same types of interior designs are used to match the unique anatomy of a patient.

It should be noted that the 3D printing technology has a reverse benefit when it comes to creating these implants. For example, CT scans of the patient can be transferred to the printer where a life-size model of the patients' head, legs, neck, etc. can be created. Technicians can then match the implant to this model for an exact fit while doctors can use it to plan incisions and do other preparatory work.

It's true we've only scratched the surface of 3D printing in the medical implant field but the future looks very promising. 

michael slavica
michael slavica


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