American Madness

Intelligent Criticism in the Service of a Better Nation

3D Printed Bones

Posted by Matt Cipriano | No Comments

Remember those articles I posted months ago about 3D printers that were able to produce small plastic parts designed on your computer (this one and this one)?

Well color me impressed- researchers from the University of Tokyo Hospital have developed a method to make “tailor-made artificial bones for use in facial reconstructive surgery.” The method is essentially the same as with the other 3D printing, the model is created in 3D on a computer and sent to a special 3D Inkjet printer:

To make an artificial bone with this technology, a 3D computer model of the bone is first created based on the patient’s X-ray and CT scan data. The computer model is then sliced into a large number of cross-sections and the data is sent to a special 3D inkjet printer, which works sort of like an ordinary inkjet printer by transferring tiny droplets of liquid onto a surface. However, unlike ordinary printers that print on paper, this one prints onto thin layers of powdered alpha-tricalcium phosphate (alpha-TCP). The “ink” is a water-based polymer adhesive that hardens the alpha-TCP it comes into contact with. By repeatedly laying down the powder and printing successive layers on top of one another, the printer is able to physically reproduce the desired bone to an accuracy of one millimeter.

It passed the Welsh Corgi test (okay, well, they tested it first on a Welsh Corgi) and then 10 human subjects over the past year and a half constituted the round of human testing. In the next few years the second round of testing will be in place for 70 more human subjects. The benefit of the 3D printed bones is that they are cheaper and easier to construct then the current artificial bone options, they are also 10 times stronger (though not quite strong enough for load-bearing bones). This is pretty awesome on a number of levels and a great example about how advances in technology can also lead to beneficial advancements in both health care and quality of life.


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