Woman Has Her Skull Replaced With A 3-D-Printed Plastic One

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The most significant skull prosthetic to date.

A woman with a rare bone disorder has had much of the top of her skull replaced with a 3-D printed plastic piece, Wired U.K. reports. Three months later, she's symptom-free and back to work.

The woman's condition made her skull increase in thickness, giving her severe headaches and affecting her eyesight. The surgery, performed at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, gave the woman a replacement that closely matched the original shape of her skull. "It is almost impossible to see that she's ever had surgery," her lead surgeon, Bon Verweij, said in a statement from the university.

Verweij's team has used 3-D printing to replace some portions of skulls before, but never to this extent, Wired U.K. reports.

You might see more such stories in the near future. While researchers are still working on 3-D printing soft tissues that are safe for transplants, 3-D-printed bony parts have already shown up in specific surgeries. As in the Utrecht case, doctors often emphasize how personalized such replacements can be.

Written By: Francie Diep
continue to source article at popsci.com

20 COMMENTS

  1. Awesome! It always does me some good to see the latest in medical technology. How many unsung heroes work to keep us healthy and long-lived?

    Unfortunately, I’ll bet it costs a fortune to make this sort of thing more widely available. New technology that replaces something like a human skull can’t be cheap to make or implant.

    • In reply to #1 by Zeuglodon:

      Unfortunately, I’ll bet it costs a fortune to make this sort of thing more widely available. New technology that replaces something like a human skull can’t be cheap to make or implant.

      I’m not sure why it should be!

      The surgery may be complex, but the material printing should become relatively cheap.

      3D scanning can produce a computer image, and 3D printing can reproduce this in specified materials.

      Plastic ( providing there is no allergic reaction) should be simpler than printing bone cells or cells forming other organs.

      http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/03/big-idea/organ-regeneration-text.

      But Atala’s group—which is working on 22 organs and tissues, including ears—recently made a functioning piece of human liver. One tool they use is similar to an ink-jet printer; it “prints” different types of cells and the organ scaffold one layer at a time.

      3D printing seems to offer a vast range of technologies, from medical applications, to space-craft components.

    • In reply to #1 by Zeuglodon:

      Unfortunately, I’ll bet it costs a fortune to make this sort of thing more widely available. New technology that replaces something like a human skull can’t be cheap to make or implant.

      Not at all, compared to how they would have had to do it a few years ago specifically machined out of titanium or stainless steel. Even if you did make it out of those materials with a 3D printer it is much cheaper as you only use the materials required normally about 90% becomes shavings. Additionally CT scanning allows direct meshing of the form of old skull and replicating it with the plastic model. 3D printers are now available for under $1000 and these are currently being used for all sorts of practical purposes. The plastic is cents a gram. Open Source (free) Modeling software like blender is superb, Check out this 3D printed prosthetic hand for $5 for children with no fingers freely available at thingiverse and modifying as the child grows is just a matter of removing the bolts and chords and printing a slightly bigger version again for under $5.

      here

      or this robotic hand

      here

      this robotic limb

      here

      or just better design

      here

      or for some fun and inspiration look at thingiverse with all the creative commons (free) things you can download and print. Yes largely geeky but there are some real gems in there. This technology is now of age and will change the way we do things.

      here

  2. For some reason I’m sad about this. And that’s the problem Zeuglodon. Here in the good ole USA most people can’t afford the medical procedures.
    We have been paying extremely high prices to “invest” in pharm products to develop new products to save lives but most can’t afford the drugs that have been around for decades.
    Highest bidder wins the right to live longer in the USA.

    • In reply to #9 by Stafford Gordon:

      Why on earth is it transparent?

      Possibly to aid fitting and checking for trapped air, or perhaps to be able to check for material compatibility problems later. The multiple little vents suggest the former though these might also be there to facilitate functional probes.

      I imagine the shape was 3D printed in a non bio material then a silicon rubber mould made from which a bio-compatible plastic casting was made. (Its probably acrylic.)

      • In reply to #10 by phil rimmer:

        In reply to #9 by Stafford Gordon:

        Why on earth is it transparent?

        Possibly to aid fitting and checking for trapped air, or perhaps to be able to check for material compatibility problems later. The multiple little vents suggest the former though these might also be there to facilitate functional…

        Thanks for that.

        S G

    • In reply to #9 by Stafford Gordon:

      Why on earth is it transparent?

      I’m guessing, however there are a couple of things.

      The plastics used depending on the method often have to be colored with various pigments which can effect things like the melting temps and flexibility and other properties. By default many are clear and as it is in the inside of the head why not?

      The smoothness of the print leads me to the conclusion that it may have been a laser setting a resin in a liquid form the bed is lowered and the laser sets off the next layer. The cheaper additive machines typically extrude a bead of melted plastic onto a base and the base lowers. Others use a powdered metal (say titanium) or plastics, squeegie a new thin layer on then the laser melts one layer to the next. All work by digitally slicing the 3D image into thin layers. All of the resin based ones I have seen have been translucent or clear so I suspect the nature of the resins may have something to do with it.

      • In reply to #11 by Reckless Monkey:

        In reply to #9 by Stafford Gordon:

        Why on earth is it transparent?

        I’m guessing, however there are a couple of things.

        The plastics used depending on the method often have to be colored with various pigments which can effect things like the melting temps and flexibility and other properties. By…

        Thanks; very helpful.

        S G

      • In reply to #12 by This Is Not A Meme:

        In reply to #9 by Stafford Gordon:

        Why on earth is it transparent?

        If given a choice… hell yeah! Metal!!!

        Also, it makes it easier to shoot with with lasers

        Thanks for the suggestions.

        S G

  3. In reply to #13 by aroundtown:

    In reply to #9 by Stafford Gordon:

    Why on earth is it transparent?

    To check the gray areas. Black and white is questionable concerning improvised 3D skull caps I’m guessing : )

    That’s a good enough guess – I guess.

    S G

  4. 3-D printers are relatively cheap, about the price of a small car. the operating cost is no more than a 150 watt light bulb. the printing materials cost a little more but not more than a days wages. Programming is done with photography and software that generates the shape again at a very low cost. I would think this skull wouldn’t cost more than a few hundred dollars including a decent profit.

    the cost of these printers will continue to come down as they become more common place.

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