3-D printing works as surgery, too

Los Angeles Times /

Published Mar 10, 2013 at 05:00AM

Some are fascinated with 3-D printing. One man can’t get it out of his head.

An unidentified man had 75 percent of his skull replaced with a 3-D printed implant made by Oxford Performance Materials, a Connecticut company. The surgery last week was the first time a patient received an implant made specifically for him using 3-D printing technology.

The patient, whose injury also was not disclosed, had his head scanned as part of the procedure.

The operation marks a big step in the advancement of 3-D printing technology. With 3-D printers, users can produce objects with a molding machine based on computer digital models. The 3-D printing technology is ideal for implants custom-shaped to each patient’s anatomy, the company said.

OPM President and Chief Executive Scott DeFelice said 3-D printing allows any type of bone to be replaced with an implant. The technology can shorten surgery time, be less risky and cost less, he said.

The type of implant, formally known as the OsteoFab Patient Specific Cranial Device, is made out of PEKK, an ultra-high-performance polymer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved OPM’s technology last month, clearing the way for the surgery. OPM said it can make an implant within two weeks of getting a patient’s scans, and believes as many as 500 people per month could make use of them in the U.S. alone.