Medical implants and prosthetics help restore a patient’s health, mobility, and prospects for a long, able-bodied life. Titanium, with it’s strong, corrosion-resistant and lightweight properties, has played a key role in the production of more advanced medical implants.
Now that this material can be used in the 3D printing process, a whole new realm of possibilities has opened up when it comes to the design, development, and manufacture of medical implants.
Recreating A Complex Natural Structure
This is most recently seen in the form a 3D printed rib cage specifically customized to the needs of the patient. the 54-year-old Spanish recipient needed the implant after a sarcoma was found in his chest wall and required the removal of his sternum and a portion of his rib cage.
The complexity of this portion of the skeleton creates an especially unique challenge for recovery and restoration, even with the use of titanium plates. A customized reproduction of the rib cage portion, however, can reinforce the patient’s chest more like the real thing.
Titanium In Place Of Bone
A surgical team at Salamanca University Hospital in Spain, partnered with Anatomics, a Australian medical device company, created the titanium implant using high resolution CT scans of the patient’s sternum and rib cage.
Using the scans, Anatomics then employed the use of a AU$1.3 million Arcam printer that creates 3D objects using metal powder, which is melted by an electron beam. The printed implant is then finished, polished, and implanted in the patient’s chest, where it will serve a vital role is his well-being.
When 3D Printed Medicine Is Commonplace
As 3D printing continues to advance, so too does it advance our ability to restore and revitalize the human body. While the resulting implants and prosthetics produced through it are still somewhat revolutionary, the day when 3D printed medical aids are as common as—and even more customizable than—casts and fillings may arrive sooner than we ever imagined.
What are your thoughts on this latest use of 3D printing in medicine? Share your input in the comments.