he 21st century has seen the growth of 3-D printing, with well-known applications in architecture, manufacturing, engineering, and now increasingly in medicine. The birth of 3-D scanning technologies combined with organic inks and thermoplastics has enabled the “bioprinting” of a range of human body parts to accommodate a wide range of medical conditions. Let’s start form the top.
Doctors at University Medical Center Utrecht, in Holland, have reported successfully performing the first surgery to completely replace a patient’s skull with a tailor-made plastic version that was 3-D printed.
The patient had a chronic bone disorder that caused her skull to be 5cm thick. The hospital said the condition had caused her to lose her vision and ultimately would have killed her, but that three months after the operation the patient regained her vision and was able to return to work.
Batch-printing of up to 150 prosthetic eyes an hour has become a reality according to UK-based company Fripp Design and Research. The mass-production technique promises to speed up the manufacture of eye prostheses and drive down the cost. Printing each eye with slight variation in color is intended to produce better aesthetic results.
The aim is to ensure more affordable eyes for the developing world with countries such as India reportedly showing interest in the products. The company, in collaboration with the UK’s Manchester Metropolitan University, hopes to implement the use of its printed eyes within the next year.
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