Ah, 3D printers, is there anything they can’t do? Toothbrush holder? Piece of cake. Hermit crab shells? You betcha. Toys for the kids? Pfft, like we’d cover it if they didn’t? Turn Grandma into a James Bond super-villain? Faster and easier than ever before!
The University of Hasselt in Belgium announced that scientists have successfully replaced the lower jaw of a 83 year-old woman with a 3D printed titanium prosthesis after her old-school flesh and bone model had to be removed due to an infection. This is the first 3D printed implant in the world to replace an entire lower jaw. Normally the construction of a custom fitted prosthesis of this kind would take days to manufacture. The University was able to create this bionic jaw in hours.
The 3D printer used was not your hobbyist class MakerBot. Built by LayerWise in Belgium, this printer converts objects from 3D models to reality using a laser to fuse particles of titanium dust together one line at a time. At 33 layers per millimeter, that’s a whole lotta of printing! The final product was given bioceramic coating compatible with the patient’s tissue and weighs in at 107 grams, only 30 grams heavier than a natural jaw.
The elderly woman was talking and swallowing only one day later.
"Computer technology is causing a revolution in medical industry", said professor Jules Poukens from BIOMED. "A traditional surgery takes up to 20 hours, and the patient should definitely stay 2 to 4 weeks in the hospital. But this operation lasted four hours and the woman could go home after four days."