A multidisciplinary team of engineers and clinicians led by The Functional Morphology Research Group at the University of Hasselt BIOMED Research Institute has created what they believe to be the very first complete 3D-printed lower jaw. The implant was manufactured by Layerwise NV, a company based in Leuven, Belgium that specializes in additive manufacturing.
Following an MRI scan of the patient’s own diseased mandible, the new mandible was created using laser printing of titanium powder to create a custom 3D implant. The implant is a little heavier than a natural lower jaw weighing in at approximately 107 grams. It was printed in a matter of hours before being sprayed with an artificial bone coating and finally being polished.
The new jaw was made for an 83 year old woman who had her entire mandible removed in order to prevent the spread of osteomyelitis and retain an open airway and basic swallowing and chewing functions. The surgery, which took place in June of last year, lasted less than four hours and within one day of the operation the patient regained basic speech and swallowing functions.
3D printing is not a new technology as explained by this 10 year old child inventor. Makerbot Industries have been producing the $1,000 “Thing-O-Matic” 3D printer for some time now and the technology has existed in various forms in the manufacturing world for a number of decades. This does however appear to be a significant step forward for the world of 3D implant printing and replication, and it’s only a matter of time (and money) before we have a complete titanium skeleton, and the makings of a pretty scary robot from the future.