3D printing is now for patients, not patents

Mar 14, 2014
3D printing is now for patients, not patents

Dr Chris Sutcliffe from the University of Liverpool School of Engineering reacts to the news of a facial reconstruction carried out using 3D printing:

"The use of a combination of CT scanning and 3D methods to treat patients who are suffering from injury or defect is incredibly powerful.

"As in the case of the man in Wales whose face was reconstructed using 3D printed parts, it allows expert surgeons to manipulate the precise geometry presented by the patient before the operation. In this way interventions can be designed and manufactured to fit the patient and all of this can be done in a normal, albeit slightly compressed, design timescale.

Techniques around for decades

"Let us not get too excited however as the majority of the techniques detailed in this story have been around for decades and if they were so effective at improving patient outcome they would be ubiquitous throughout the NHS.

"A very similar story to this was detailed in a BBC documentary nearly two decades ago. So why has it taken so long, why are we reading this recycled news now and what has happened to make the world interested in 3D printing?

"It is not about technology it is about money.

"The hype that currently surrounds 3D printing results from the expiry of a number of fundamental patents covering manufacturing processes. This has resulted in many low-cost 3D printing machines producing a 'print at home' community of enthusiasts, designers and innovators which has led to a wider, better served, lower cost marketplace. This in turn has created more knowledge and hence public awareness.

"On the other hand, it is also about technology and not money.

"In particular metal 3D printing, which is one of the main technologies which we research here at Liverpool. Metal 3D printing produces components in biocompatible materials such as titanium from 3D data produced by a design system or CT scan. In the last five years these machines have improved to such an extent that they can now be used to make implantable parts.

Greater access, more experiments

"Our lab at Liverpool is one of the largest in the UK, and we have plenty of experience and many firsts. We built the first machine in the UK, helped develop alongside Renishaw the first UK manufactured metal 3D printer and invented and patented technology that has led directly to the commercial implantation of 1,000s of series-produced advanced 3D printed implants.

"Clearly the progress of 3D printing technology is accelerating, and this is largely due to more people being able to access and experiment with the devices in a variety of settings. We're likely to see a lot more stories like the one in the future but for every wonder application that succeeds there are likely to be more failed ideas that never catch on."

Explore further: Build me a face in 3D: British man's life 'transformed'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The future of 3-D printing

Oct 16, 2013

Experts in 3D printing at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Additive Manufacturing at the University of Nottingham, have helped create a ...

3-D printing yields advantages for US ITER engineers

Mar 12, 2014

(Phys.org) —ITER, the international fusion research facility now under construction in St. Paul-lez-Durance, France, has been called a puzzle of a million pieces. US ITER staff at Oak Ridge National Laboratory ...

3D printing lab opens new window into cancer research

Feb 12, 2014

The first 3D print of a G-quadruplex DNA sequence and its molecular structure was recently created at The University of Alabama in the UA 3D Printing Lab, allowing researchers a potentially valuable new tool ...

Recommended for you

Study says upgrading infrastructure could reduce flood damage

21 hours ago

The severe flooding that devastated a wide swath of Colorado last year might have been less destructive if the bridges, roads and other infrastructure had been upgraded or modernized, according to a new study from the University ...

Walk through buildings from your own device

23 hours ago

Would you like to visit The Frick Collection art museum in New York City but can't find the time? No problem. You can take a 3-D virtual tour that will make you feel like you are there, thanks to Yasutaka ...

'Ambulance drone' prototype unveiled in Holland

Oct 28, 2014

A Dutch-based student on Tuesday unveiled a prototype of an "ambulance drone", a flying defibrillator able to reach heart attack victims within precious life-saving minutes.

Driverless subway line to be extended in Paris

Oct 28, 2014

The Paris public transportation company Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP) is extending its network of driverless subways by six kilometers. Siemens will equip the new section of Line 14 with ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.