3D printing is a technology generally profitable in low-volume and one unit production. For this reason, it is becoming more and more popular in the medical industry, where it is used to create personalized implants. 3D printing methods also optimize the production of facial prostheses, dedicated to people who have suffered facial bone defects as a result of fighting cancer.

Researchers at Paulista University (UNIP) in Sao Paulo have developed simpler and faster technology for creating personalized prostheses using modern technologies. The results of their work were described in the scientific journal “Journal of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery”.

The method assumes the use of a smartphone as a low-budget scanner that collects information on the geometry of the craniofacial defects. These data are used to produce much cheaper dentures, which are used to create, among others 3D printing technologies. According to Rodrigo Salazar, involved in the project, earlier the process of creating personalized facial prostheses was expensive, long-lasting and required a lot of manual, tedious work.

The first person to receive a prosthesis created by a method developed by scientists at Paulista University was 53-year-old Denise Vicentin, who as a result of cancer had lost his right eye and part of the jaw. The woman has a number of treatments behind her which have been aimed at rebuilding facial tissue and restoring her appearance before the disease. Numerous surgeries improved Denise’s condition, but an orbital and ocular prosthesis proved a necessity.

The creation of the prosthesis was possible due to additive technologies. On the basis of a scan made with a smartphone camera, a 3D model was prepared, which was created in the 3D printing technology and used as a prototype of the implant. The finished element was made on the basis of a 3D print out of silicone, and then it was painted in such a way that it imitated the real facial anatomy as closely as possible.

The success of the research team accelerated further work on the project – it is already planned to open in 2021 a center for facial prosthetics. The advantage of the method developed by scientists is above all costs – using conventional manufacturing methods would require equipment costing up to USD 500,000. However, their solution only requires a desktop computer and a smartphone.

Magdalena Przychodniak
Editor-in-Chief of the 3D Printing Center. A biomedical engineer following the latest reports on bioprinting and 3D printing in modern medicine.

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