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Feb 12 2012

3D Printing used to replace woman’s jaw

Images of the titanium jaw and surgical procedure

This is damned cool. An 83 year old woman had an infected mandible, and needed it to be removed. Hell of a way to finish out your life, with no jaw, so doctors used a 3D printer to build a titanium and organic ceramic jaw to replace her old one.

The 3D printer prints titanium powder layer by layer, while a computer controlled laser ensures that the correct particles are fused together. It took 33 layers to build 1mm of height, so there were many thousand layers necessary to build for this jawbone. Using 3D printing technology, less materials are needed and the production time is much shorter than traditional manufacturing. The mandible was finally given a bioceramic coating compatible with the patient’s tissue by BioCeramics in Leiden. The artificial jaw weighs 107 grams, it is only 30 grams heavier than a natural jaw, but the patient can easily get used to it.

3D printing is pretty much going to be the manufacturing method of the future, considering the lack of waste, the absurdly low cost, and the intricacy of the designs possible. Hobbyists can already do 3D printing at home, which raises the question in my mind: could this eventually do to the manufacturing industry what the internet did for content creation and redistribution?

And two corollary questions: how long til we get printable dildos? And how long til religious folks declare 3D printing as the end of civilization?

8 comments

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  1. 1
    Troythulu

    My guess is that the religious types will start railing against it once they start realizing that it exists despite not being mentioned anywhere in whatever bible they make use of.

  2. 2
    Marshall

    This is really exciting stuff. I’d love to see this replace traditional manufacturing, what with the lack of dangerous production waste and byproducts.

  3. 3
    Dalillama

    For the first corollary, the answer is approximately -1 years. Those are out there already.

  4. 4
    Sithrazer

    Despite the claims of less material use and lower cost, getting anything made from a company that uses 3D printing is more expensive than more conventional means. I imagine a lot of that cost is a novelty fee and companies looking to recoup the overhead of purchasing these machines ASAP.

    If someone hasn’t already used this technology to make a sex toy, I will eat my hat. Even if it is just a DIYer with a new toy (not that one) and some free time on his/her hands.

    MakerBot Industries sells some small DIY 3D printer kits. Unfortunately, they keep discontinuing models and only making new models that cost 70% more than the last available.

  5. 5
    Marshall

    I imagine a lot of that cost is a novelty fee and companies looking to recoup the overhead of purchasing these machines ASAP.

    You know, now that I think about it, depending on what it is that’s being manufactured some of the added cost could come from not being able to quickly produce large quantities of an item. I’ve worked on the production line for a factory that produced plastic containers (mostly for food packaging, yogurt containers and the like) and let me tell you, those things are produced at an incredible rate of speed. It’s difficult to keep up with them and if you aren’t paying close attention the bins that they collect in will fill up and block the opening that they leave the machine through. If 3D printing is as slow as the videos I’ve seen are leading me to believe, then it seems unlikely that you would be able to keep up that rate of production without a LOT of 3D printers, and that sounds like the kind of thing a factory would balk at paying for. I mean hell, the machines at the factory I worked at are several decades old and haven’t really been upgraded at all; they often catch fire and have to be shut down. I think it might be a while yet before the savings from using less material offset the expensive initial purchase of the machines and the far slower rate of production.

  6. 6
    Orakio

    That’s one, more or less, Marshall, and then there are the other problems that you don’t hear about.

    Several years ago, I was asked to do the analysis on an artificial tooth that someone had made by 3d printing a gold underlay, then coating it with a ceramic. It was a beautifully made piece, except for one thing – it was failing under normal bite loads. Turned out that the gold powder they printed it from didn’t sinter. It was just loosely packed spheres of powder, held together more by casual association than diffusion bonding.

    A few years later, at a different job, I scrapped out a 3d printer because we just couldn’t feed the powder requisite for the final material properties through the system, and keep it bound together; it wasn’t practical to laser sinter it on the spot.

    3D printing is a powerful, and useful technology, but it’s not going to be a panacea. There’s going to be limits to what you can sinter together at home, and some of these powders aren’t something you want knocking about your home, which is going to limit at home production. Sales of designs are going to make for interesting IP law, though…

  7. 7
    Marshall

    Sales of designs are going to make for interesting IP law, though…

    I hadn’t even considered that, but yeah, that could be a nightmare given the current state of things…

  8. 8
    sithrazer

    3D printing is mostly used for ‘rapid prototyping’ and limited (custom) manufacturing, not mass manufacture.

    It’s almost like coming full circle, mass manufacturing relies on super-fast production lines where each station performs one or two steps of the process. To match the output you’d need hundreds or thousands of 3D printers each building the whole product from scratch in the style of pre industrial revolution individual craftsmanship.

    Fair use provisions could certainly get a workout depending on whether or not home models move beyond the current hobbyist and entrepreneur market. This isn’t like music or movies though, anyone with some calipers and a little practice with whatever 3D software accompanies the printer could make their own ‘designs’ from scratch. The closest comparison I could draw are music and MIDI’s, and last I knew MIDI replications of music were ruled to be incapable of high enough quality duplication to be infringing copyrights on the original music.

    However, there is also the precedent of 3rd party and aftermarket items. So long as a design, schematic, or whatever the files are referred to, isn’t stolen directly from the patent holder or entire devices manufactured and sold, a lot of those ‘designs’ would probably qualify as valid 3rd party/aftermarket items.

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