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Is 3D printing the future of prosthetics?

4 years ago

Tom Baker writer
Tom Baker Staff Writer Derby, UK

You can do a whole lot of neat – and scary – stuff with a 3D printer. Turns out, it also has its applications in medicine as well.

Not two short months ago one American patient had 75% of his damaged skull replaced with a 3D-printed replica. I know, right? The people behind it didn’t give much more information than that, because they have a keen sense of a cliffhanger they share with soap opera writers. They’ve got us hooked! What happens next?

Well, first of all, a little more detail than that: how the process works is that the patient has their skull scanned, and a replacement made with ‘polyetherketoneketone (PEKK) thermoplastic’ is printed up. The plastic doesn’t interfere with x-rays, and the implant was designed with special holes and textures to encourage the damaged parts of the skull to grow back.

Already 3D printing is being used by doctors to produce replacement jaws, models of bones as prep for surgery, and even fully-functioning human ears. In fact, prostheses seems like the tip of the iceberg for what 3D printing can achieve: just wait until you see the first 3D-printed kidney

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