Nov
14
2014

3D in the medical industry

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A skull made of Plexiglas based on a 3D scan…science fiction? Not for the surgeons of the University Medical Centre Hospital in Utrecht, who are using Plexiglas to replace the skull of a woman in desperate need.

The rapid development of 3D-scans and printing is not only opening doors for the manufacturing industry but also are causing a real revolution in the medical world.

The extremely detailed images provided by the 3D scanners lend themselves to a wide range of applications, from plastic surgery to the development of tailor-made prostheses and support for medical research.

Well begun is half done.

3D models are very handy when planning complicated operations. Using specialist software, surgeons can work out the operation down to the last detail in advance. This then acts to shorten the operation time and the chances of complications.

Jaw-dropping printing.

3D scanning is very useful for plastic surgery and based on extremely detailed scans; moulds for example for bone reconstruction can be made.

Until recently surgeons mainly had to make moulds themselves, now they can do beforehand with CAD models. This has a hugely positive impact on the aesthetic end result of, for example, jaw or nose reconstructions.

Prosthetics made easier.

In addition, rapid prototyping for prostheses is also one of the possibilities. A suitable prosthesis used to take months to complete and was very pricey. However, by using specialised software for reverse engineering, anatomical parts can be corrected to rectify any deviation.

For example, this technique is applied, for example, in a new set of teeth or also in the new skull made of Plexiglas. The fit can be compared to an original based on detailed CAD models, reducing the need for as many prototypes to arrive at a suitable copy and the process is also significantly faster and the chance that the implant is rejected is reduced.

Tailor-made organs.

One of the great challenges for doctors and engineers is the production of working organs. Scientists at the University of Louisville, Kentucky are currently very busy with the development of a full 3D-printed heart.

This process is completed by combining a patient’s living cells with artificial components and although this project is still in its infancy, it promotes a whole new development. Rejection would, therefore, not be a problem anymore because the organ is made of the cells of the patient in question. Who knows, the shortage of suitable donor organs could soon be a thing of the past!

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