It's not exactly brain surgery – but it's pretty close. An ultra-realistic 3D-printed skull that recreates the texture of different layers of tissue is allowing students to practise drilling into bone and removing a tumour. New Scientist reports.
Vicknes Waran from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and colleagues created the model using the latest generation of 3D printers, which can print plastic in a variety of textures, from rubbery to hard. By tweaking the printer's settings, they mimicked the consistency of skin, bone and membranes to build up the layers inside a skull. To reproduce a jelly-like tumour, plastic was injected into an anatomically accurate cavity created by the printer, based on scans from a patient. It was then coloured red to add realism.
The skull is an improvement over existing models that use a single material because it allows trainees to see, feel and even hear how each type of tissue responds. Patient-specific replicas can simulate different medical conditions, allowing students to rehearse an entire operation ahead of time.
British company Fripp Design and Research has developed 3D-printed prosthetic eyes that could be produced much faster than existing handmade versions, reducing the cost by 97 percent. Dezeen reports.
Fripp Design and Research, which is also working on 3D-printed ears and noses for patients with facial disfigurements, has collaborated with Manchester Metropolitan University to develop ocular prosthetics that are 3D-printed in batches, with intricate coloured details including the iris and blood vessels already included.
Currently, prosthetic eyes are moulded in acrylic and painted by hand to match the patient's eye colour. This process is time-consuming and expensive, whereas producing the eyes using a 3D printer enables up to 150 eyes to be made in an hour.
All of the components are printed from powder in full colour using a Z-Corp 510 machine before the resulting form is encased in resin. Compared to the existing handmade production method, this helps to remove any variation in quality and significantly reduces the cost of each eye, which is currently up to £3000 in the UK.
"Because each one is produced from the same system the consistency is the same and the cost is drastically reduced to approximately £100," said Fripp.
Sheffield-based Fripp Design has developed a system for fast and low-cost manufacture of facial prostheses. The Guardian reports.
The University of Sheffield company have developed a process in which the patient's face is 3D-scanned, avoiding the need for a sometimes painful and invasive impression, and the specific contours then added to a digital model of the new prosthetic part, to create a perfect fit every time. The parts themselves can be scanned from other people or replicated from the patient's own physiognomy – one ear can be scanned and mirrored to replicate another.
"We have a whole bank of different noses and ears now," says industrial designer Tom Fripp. "One lady had always admired her friend's nose, so we made her one just like it."
The parts are 3D-printed in full colour in starch powder, forming a lightweight model that is then vacuum-infiltrated with medical grade silicone, binding it together and providing durable flexibility. The first prosthesis costs around the same as the traditional process, but once the digital model has been made, successive parts can be produced for around £150.
"Prostheses do tend to wear out and degrade after exposure to water, sun and daily wear and tear," says Fripp. "But 3D-printed prostheses allow for different options – for example if you get a sun-tan, you can just email us about your new skintone and we'll print you a new one."
The target market for which the project was developed, he says, is the developing world, where prosthetic skills are often in short supply. The main barrier at present is the prohibitive cost of 3D-scanning technology, but with prices coming down, the availability of low-cost, individually-customised prostheses could soon be a reality.
3-D printing has lately gained momentum as a (cheap, quick) manufacturing endpoint in and of itself. “The biggest advantage of 3D printing is that everything is customizable,” said Markus Fromherz, Xerox’s chief innovation officer in healthcare. Quartz reports.
There are three categories of healthcare where 3-D printing could be applied, or is already, Markus Fromherz, Xerox’s chief innovation officer in healthcare. said: for body parts or prosthetics (sometimes called “scaffolding”), medical devices, and human tissues.
Printing technology has already revolutionized joint replacements, Fromherz said. “Knee replacement is a very common procedure, there are six or so different types of knees that doctors use,” he said, adding, “with each one you need to cut the bone differently.”
But with 3-D printing, doctors aren’t limited to those six knees. They can design one specific to each patient.
Patients with custom knees don’t have to lose extra inches of bone, instead the surgeon can cut at the optimal point, which could lead to faster recovery times and better functionality.
Strong, flexible new knee joints mimicking bone and cartilage can now be printed with nylon. These surgeries are available at top-tier medical facilities like the Mayo Clinic.
2. Medical devices
Most hearing aids are already 3-D printed, since these have always been customized to the user, and scanning, modeling, and printing saves time over casting a handmade mold of the inner ear. What used to take a week now takes less than a day.
Similarly, making crowns and dental implants–once a two week process–can happen while the patient reads a magazine in the waiting room.
3. Human tissues
Scientists have printed artificial meat tissue suitable for eating, but making tissues and organs that maintain life has been much harder. So far, printed bits of functional liver tissue in Petri dishes could be viable for testing drugs, and larger models have been useful for surgeons to practice technique.
“Printing functional human tissue will be a game changer, but it’s far out,” Fromherz said.
... It still takes at least 30 minutes to print anything. The technology may one day be most useful at military field hospitals or at the scene of an accident, where immediately creating splints, body parts or devices could save lives, but it’s not quick enough yet to be implemented.
“There will be 3-D printers, I’m sure, in every home and hospital in the future,” Fromherz said. “But right now the tech isn’t fast enough.
Peking University Third Hospital, a top hospital in China, recently announced that its Orthopedics Department has been using enhanced implants produced by a 3-D printer in a clinical trial, with promising results. China Daily reports.
We started clinical trials on 3-D produced implants late last year, and now we have used dozens of such implants in more than 50 patients," said Liu Zhongjun, director with the department."All the patients recover very well. Nobody seems to have any undesirable side effects or adverse reaction.
Time is critical when a patient is undergoing surgery. The longer the patient’s internal tissue is exposed, the greater the risk. When a patient can be quickly closed up and begin recovery, chances are greater for a healthy recovery. [via Today's Medical Development]
These concerns are on the minds of maxillofacial surgeons at the Cliniques universitaires saint Luc, Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium, who often need to reconstruct bones in a patient’s skull, such as a jaw ravaged by cancer or an eye socket crushed in a car accident.
The surgeons employ paper 3D printing technology from Mcor Technologies, Duneer, Ireland, to recoup hours from traditional surgical procedures. Working from the digitally scanned contours of patients’ bones, doctors push a button to create full-size 3D physical models they can use as surgical guides.
Since the model is a facsimile of the patient’s actual physiology, surgeons can use it to shape metal inserts that fit precisely along a patient’s residual bone. The insert might be a plate that supports a damaged mandible or a titanium mesh for reconstructing a damaged eye socket. Without 3D physical models to work from, it would force surgeons to rely on time-consuming trial and error to shape the metal implants and risk potential tissue damage.
“With each procedure, we easily win an hour in the operating room, and that is a major benefit for the patient,” says Professor Raphael Olszewski, a surgeon and head of the university’s oral and maxillofacial surgery research lab (OMFS Lab, UCL). “We open the patient up, slide in the device, check the fit, and start the patient’s recovery.
This cortex cast utilizes the x-ray and 3d scan of a patient with a fracture and generates a 3d model in relation to the point of fracture. Its fully ventilated, super light, shower friendly, hygienic, recyclable and stylish.
There is down side according to Michael Interbartolom: the 3D printing of the cast takes around three hours whereas a plaster cast is three to nine minutes, but requires 24-72 hours to be fully set.
Born with a backwards foot, a duck called Buttercup could only walk in great pain -- until his owner came up with a novel idea for a flexible prosthetic. C/net reports.
After Buttercup had his foot amputated in February, 3D printing company NovaCopy agreed to donate its services. Using photos of the left foot of Buttercup's sister Minnie, they designed a brand new left foot for the maimed duck.
Because the foot needs to be flexible, the usual plastics used in 3D printing aren't viable. Instead, NovaCopy printed a mould, which will be used to cast a silicone foot for the lucky duck, creating several iterations of the design to come up with the perfect one. It will be attached to his foot via a silicone sheath.
Current prosthetic technology is highly complicated and expensive, and can cost up to $10,000 for a basic prosthetic finger. Imagine if instead of having to rely on complex and costly products and equipment, we could simply print out a full prosthetic device from the convenience of home.
Robohand is a mechanical 3D-printed hand that can be created using a MakerBot 3D printer.
The design files and assembly instructions for Robohand can be found on Thingiverse.
For Enabled By Design, a nonprofit specializing in “good design [that] can support people to live as independently as possible,” 3-D printing is a game-changer. Instead of buying mass-produced products, people with disabilities can manufacture exactly what they need to suit their individual needs. FastCoDesign reports.
Late last year, the organization held a designathon in London, below are some of the projects that came out of it:
-- For Paul Carter who co-directs a television production company , born without lower arms and legs, and is a heavy coffee drinker, using a 3-D printer, competitors created a prototype water-heating device that could be operated without hands and which could be manipulated using upper arms.
-- fingertip cacti are tabletop dining utensils that slip on users’ fingers. The cacti are designed for eaters with motor impairments and make handling food significantly easier. In the case of the finger cacti, a 3-D printer was used to quickly produce prototypes that users could test out at the designathon.
-- Playsettings, which are spill-resistant tea cups, were fabricated on 3-D printers and have already made it to market.
The "Inside 3D printing" expo, a two-day event held in New York showcased everything from the latest 3D printers and scanners to the ever-broadening spectrum of printing filaments. But hidden away in a conference room were a small array of 3D printed medical apparatuses that are already changing the face of surgery, without all the fanfare of a skull replacement. Dvice reports.
Atop a simple table sit a handful of printed medical models, joints, surgical guides and a few porous, metal semi-spheres. These little marvels, strangely enough, are some of medical 3D printing's greatest success stories to date.
... 3D printing allows for the cheap, easy creation of complex structures, like a sphere with a solid interior and a porous exterior. The solid interior helps the new hip joint sit and function properly, the necessity of any replacement joint.
The porous exterior does something even more. It encourages your existing pelvic bone to grow into and through its Swiss cheese-like holes. And when that happens, something is achieved that is practically unheard of in the world of prosthetics: the replacement hip gets stronger — as if it were a real, healing part of your body. Check out the whole array of under-sung 3D printed medical tools in Dvice's gallery.
Joint replacements have been around for a long time. Most people with conditions such as osteoarthritis can expect good results if they have one. But what about those who have complicated cases or unusual deformities that a standard replacement can't fix? In the past that's meant few options. Now, doctors at Mayo Clinic are using 3D printers to enable customized joint replacement surgeries. Many patients, who were out of luck, can now have a successful surgery and better quality of life.
200 million Europeans suffer from disabling foot and ankle problems. Splints and orthotic insoles are normally made using the traditional manufacturing processes; impression casts, hand crafting etc. These are time consuming, expensive and make repeat prescriptions very difficult to reproduce. prsnlz.me reports.
Surgeons have employed cutting-edge three-dimensional printing technology to create a prosthetic face for Mr Moger, 60, after cancer surgery removed almost the entire left side of his face — in what is thought to be the first procedure of its kind in Britain.
LiveScience reports on how 3D printing technology has helped replace 75 percent of a patient's skull with the approval of U.S. regulators.
The company announced it had received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its skull implant on Feb. 18 — a decision that led to the first U.S. surgical operation on March 4.
3D printing's advantage comes from taking the digitally scanned model of a patient's skull and "printing" out a matching 3D object layer by layer. The precise manufacturing technique can even make tiny surface or edge details on the replacement part that encourage the growth of cells and allow bone to attach more easily.
A designer San Francisco is creating coverings for prosthetic legs using 3D scanning to capture the unique leg shape, offering customizations that have never before been possible. The Telegraph reports.
Scott Summit came up with a new type of cover for prosthetic legs called "fairings." Recreating a unique leg shape by scanning a client's existing leg, the fairings are then built using a 3D printer.
They not only return the lost contour of the body, but also allow for individual design and style, using different patterns and graphics.
The technology may eventually make these kinds of prosthetics more accessible.
The mechanical fingers were made using a Replicator 2 3D printer and are attached to a brace that is worn over the hand. The fingers are controlled via cables and return bungees, which, while relatively low-tech, provide a functional and comfortable to wear prosthesis. The design can also be scaled for other individuals using Makerware software.
-- A prosthetic hand that could be cheaply created on a 3-D printer for amputees in developing countries:
Manu Print has a unique design that allows users to close and open each finger individually by applying only one tensile force. The hand is purely mechanical and has no electronic parts. Inventor Eric Ronning, a mechanical engineering sophomore, could make the hand's design available on open-source 3-D printing sites such as Thingiverse, where it could be easily replicated for about $20.
One project described here caught my eye. Called Happy Feet, it was one of the contestants in The 3D 4D Challence which took place in London last October. The slogan was “Relieving Poverty Encouraging Innovation.”
Among the contestants were Roy Ombatti and Harris Nyali from University of Nairobi’s Fablab. Their project, Happy Feet, aims to solve the jigger menace in Kenya by using 3d printing to make customised shoes for people suffering from Jigger. Thus a right shoe can be made differently than a left, depending on the level of infestation.
Jiggers are tiny parasites that resemble fleas. They embed themselves in the feet, hands or other exposed body parts of animals, including humans. Serious infestations may lead to severe inflammation leading to loss of toenails, auto amputation of digits, and death may also occur. The risk of secondary infection, such as tetanus, is also high. Jiggers live in dusty conditions and other unhygienic environments, and are generally associated with poverty-stricken populations.
The shoes would be manufactured from reused plastic and would also be recyclable once they are worn out. Apart from the potential help that this project could bring to people affected by the jigger infestation, it can also provide employment for people.
A great article by Russ Banham explaining how 3D printing works for dental fabrication, tailoring prosthetic limbs and "bioprinting"—the production of human organs for transplant.
With dental fabrication, a digitized, intra-oral scan is made of a patient's teeth, uploaded into a computer, and then e-mailed to a dental lab that prints out a new porcelain bridge. The new process means patients no longer have to endure uncomfortable, foul-tasting, and less accurate oral impressions using trays and molding materials. ...
"The way most artificial limbs are made hasn't changed much over the years—you take a piece of foam, shave it into a rough approximate of a person's leg, then make a mold and stamp it out," says Scott Summit, an industrial designer and co-founder of Bespoke Innovations, which uses 3D Printing technology to produce customized prosthetics. "We wanted to design and produce something unique and far more personal—to bring greater humanity to people who've experienced a traumatic or congenital limb loss."
Bespoke Innovations manufactures customized prosthetic limb coverings, or "fairings," that perfectly mirror the sculptural symmetry and function of the wearer's remaining limb. ...
Perhaps the most disruptive (in a good way) application of 3D Printing in the medical world is "bioprinting"—the production of human organs for transplant.
The technology involves the creation of replacement tissues and organs that are printed layer-by-layer into a three-dimensional structure. The parts are made from the organ recipient's own genetic matter, and precisely match the tissue or organ they replace.
Since these printed organs or tissue are made from the patient's own cells—rather than those of a donated heart or liver, for example—there's little risk of an immune response, which lessens the need for debilitating immunosuppressive drugs.
The breakthroughs in bioprinting have been increasing in frequency. Like the race to the moon in an earlier era, the goal of bioprinting appeared lofty but attainable, and the first commercial 3D bioprinter was developed in 2009 by a bioprinting company called Organovo. ...
The Business of Bioprinting
Researchers from publicly traded Organovo as well as those at universities like Wake Forest, Stanford, and Harvard are collecting data right now proving the viability of 3D bioprinting. Once enough data is collected, the clinical trials process will begin, and at some point in the future, the FDA will rule on whether or not this "therapeutic technology" gets the green light. ...
Ernst Jan Bos, a Dutch medical researcher at VUMC, Amsterdam is using a Ultimaker 3D printer to print 'scaffold' upon which new human body parts may one day be grown. As a specialist in plastic surgery he hopes this technology could be used for facial reconstruction of burn patient. 3ders.org reports.
Using a 3D scanner they scan the body part of patient, then send the file to a Ultimaker 3D printer for printing, afterwards they use it as the basis for creating molds for growing the ear.
Most amputees go through a lot of prosthetics in a lifetime. This can be expensive, especially in the developing world. The Beth Project aims to change that by making a prosthetic that can change along with the human body. FastCompany reports.
The product is aimed particularly at the developing world, where up to 30 million people require prosthetics, according to the World Health Organization.
The issue is not so much about cost--cheap prosthetics exist, and many used ones are donated--but the need for specialists to adjust or replace the sockets. WHO says 180,000 trained staff are needed, and that there’s a current shortage of about 40,000. Outfitting an average prosthetist’s clinic, complete with grinders and vacuum formers, costs $70,000, according to Hill, and that’s before you hire personnel to run it.
"Initially, we were thinking about making a cheaper socket, maybe using 3-D printing, or some other advanced manufacturing technique," Hill says. "But then we found out the real problem was the shortage of trained care. The 40,000 figure really jumped out at us.
A new system is being used by a handful of dentists to scan patients’ teeth and create crowns for them while they wait. A process that normally takes two weeks, now only takes an hour. Singularity Hub reports.
Instead of making a mold and sending it to a lab for scanning, dentists are now using a small camera to scan the misshapen teeth directly. The digitized scan is then sent to an on-site milling machine that carves the crown from a block of porcelain – in about an hour. After about 15 minutes of preparation the crown is ready to be implanted. No need to walk around for two weeks, waiting, with a temporary filling.
Penny Bailey explores a Wellcome Trust-supported project that is changing the way facial prosthetics are made.
... At the University of Sheffield, a team of researchers exploring biomaterials and implants became convinced there must be a way of harnessing 21st-century digital 3D technologies to make the process easier and more comfortable for patients.
Creating fleshlike prostheses, as opposed to porcelain teeth or crowns, posed a unique set of challenges. The material used would have to be strong, flexible and biocompatible (unlikely to trigger a toxic or allergic reaction when inserted into human skin). The colour would have to match the patient's specific skin tone exactly, and the whole prosthesis would need to blend as invisibly as possible into the surrounding face.
Three years on, Fripp Design and Research have come up with a reliable process that got the thumbs-up from their first client (who wishes to remain anonymous), who had her nose removed because of nasal cancer in 2002.
Patient-specific cases require entirely unique parts and apparatuses to be manufactured, and 3D printing is pretty reliable when it comes down to create accurate pieces. stuffmaker reports.
In Belgium, Surgeons replaced the infected lower jawbone of an 83-year-old woman with a customized jawbone which would fit the patient’s existing bone structure, nerves and muscles.
Emma Lavelle suffers from arthrogryposis multiplex congenital (AMC), a condition which causes contracted joints and muscle weakness. ... Through a 3D printer and ABS plastic, Emma was given an entirely unique apparatus which helps her to move her arms.
Through 3D printing, doctors and engineers have introduced entirely unique and stylish prosthetic limb.
Now the toddler, who calls her prosthetic her "magic arms," can play and eat independently. Thanks to its customizability and ease of manufacturing, 3D printing is an exciting development for pediatric prosthetics, according to Core77.
The custom exoskeletons are printed in ABS plastic and attached to a plastic vest. Because of the ease of manufacturing, the exoskeleton can grow with the child which makes 3D printing especially exciting for those working in pediatric care.
Prosthetics can’t replicate the look and feel of lost limbs but they can carry a lot of personality. At TEDxCambridge, Scott Summit shows 3D-printed, individually designed prosthetic legs that are unabashedly artificial and completely personal -- from macho to fabulous.