3D Printing Enables The Creation Of Personalized, Replacement Body Parts

Layerwise implants Titanium jaw in first ever jaw replacement surgery.

Belgian company LayerWise has successfully manufactured a Titanium jaw utilizing CAD design software and a 3D printer, making it the first patient-specific implant ever created. The replacement jaw was designed to match the patient’s exact facial structure and fabricated through a process that involved melting successive layers of titanium powder with a high-powered laser. An 83-year old woman was the recipient of the artificial bone, which allowed her to speak normally only hours after the procedure.

Dr. Peter Mercelis, Managing Director of LayerWise, has leveraged the industrial principles of Additive Manufacturing (AM), which builds parts from the ground up through a precision layering technique, and applied them to the health care space. The technique helps reduce the number of steps to create an implant, as well as the overall number of pieces required, eliminating the need for adhesives. Once the digital designs are created, a 3D printer creates a cross-section map for thousands of coats to be applied. A high-temperature plasma spray is used to create a tight bond between metallic layers. Finally, the implant receives a bio-ceramic coating that has a porous texture to stimulate new cell growth and help assimilate the artificial bone into the patient’s body. The whole printing process can be completed within a matter of hours, enabling surgeons to attach the jaw in a fraction of the time required by current reconstructive surgeries.

LayerWise hopes that their process will decrease the turn around time for implant surgeries while increasing functionality. Using AM techniques they are able to create shapes that are impossible to replicate through any other process. Going beyond bone, the 3D printing might someday allow for custom shapes that can serve as the architecture for new organs. They hope that eventually the metallic powder used as ‘ink’ can be replaced by organic material, revolutionizing the marketplace and ushering in a new era of personalized medicine.

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Image via: BBC

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