Author: Prof.Dr. Brando Okolo
3D Printing technologies bring with it the promise of replicating, in physical terms, digital designs and constructions in a straight forward fashion. The digital data may result from a construction effort using computer aided design tools or may be information acquired from imaging tools such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner, Computer Tomography scanner or X-ray radiography device. Raw data from these scanning devices are conveniently converted to 3D Printer machine readable format (typically .stl) then printed as actual models of the organ or bio-component. With such possibilities in view it goes without saying that 3D Printing technologies can render new applications in medical practice.
Customization is one of the leveraging attributes of 3D Printing tools. In the medical practice such tools can support the industry’s drive to advance individualized patient care making it possible to develop treatment plans that are truly patient-specific, enhance the communication pathway amongst medical practitioners and build the confidence needed for success in treatment. Other key advantages of incorporating 3D Printing technologies in medical practice are that (i) the costs incurred from trials and bio-medical research can be reduced (ii) it becomes possible to fabricate parts which have geometric complexities that pose technical challenges for conventional manufacturing methods (iii) the deployment of customized medical products such as prosthetics and implants based on user-specific measurements will help reduce the trauma level in treated patients.
In the planning of surgical procedures, physicians and their teams rely on the 2-dimensional data of organs or human body structures provided from MRI, CT or radiography scans in order to make decisions critical for a successful operation. Working with 3-dimensional replica (1:1 scale) of such structure(s) can greatly improve and enhance the preparation process. The medical procedure can be simulated well in advance of the actual intervention allowing the medical team gain better insight to the patient’s specific case in a more profound way.
Indmatec GmbH has successfully demonstrated the feasibility of 3D printing high quality bio-medical structures from polyethertherketone (PEEK) material using the fused filament fabrication (FFF) technology. The input data for the printed parts were taken from MRI and CT scans of real human anatomy. Our technology and PEEK material are highly affordable compared to market conditions and exceed the quality expectations of end-users.