Feb.18, 2013

30 minutes after the accident, the patient is already on the operating table having been processed through xray. While nurses and doctors attend to cuts and bruises, two surgeons look over xrays of the right femur. During a horrific side impact crash, part of the metal structure of the car door has shattered the upper portion of the femur including the ball of the hip. Normally a standard hip replacement would be called for, but in this case the upper femur is shattered in such a way as to eliminate the use of a standard ball joint with spike support. The hip cartilage is in good shape however and the team decides to 3D Print a replacement upper femur. This would normally take more than one operation, as the exact shape would need to be reproduced by actual measurement or 3D scanning and then 3D Printed in a sintering printer using titanium. However, this hospital has a standard reprap style 3D Printer capable of printing at high speeds with a new material well tolerated by the human body. One that’s been used for over 50 years in surgeries and wound closures performed all over the world. Nylon. The benefits and features of nylon are exactly what would be called for in a material to support the weight of a human along with its pliability to allow some “give” and its slippery surface texture to provide a smooth movement of the joint.

This scenario is possible right now as the technology is only three months into it’s start in that doctors, surgeons and specialist from all over the world have just begun evaluating a new 3D Printing specific material called 618 Nylon. Top surgeons and doctors from the Hague to Cambridge have already determined 618 meets or exceeds the requirements to support several possible uses inside and out of the human body. From bone replacement to electronic sensor enclosures, hospitals and clinics can now design and print on-demand “patient specific” support components. In the past, a prosthetic designed specifically for a patient’s shape, weight and structure would require iterations of models and try-outs. With the combination of 3D scanning and on-demand 3D Printing, a patient can now leave the Dr’s office with a pliable prosthetic or orthopedic device designed specifically for their needs and body shape all printed, while they wait, on a low cost reprap style 3D printer. The newly printed and pliable parts won’t split, break or tear and some can be machine-washed and dried. All at the same cost as current 3D printing materials.

Within just a week of 618’s release, printed samples along with evaluation material was sent by request to the Hague University, The Netherlands Applied Sciences Department: Technology, Innovation & Society.

Joris van Dam, at the Hague was starting 3D Printing specific courses in “Human Technologies” The response from Jorris and his associates was immediate after their initial evaluation.

Joris van Dam: With the strength and pliability of 618, we can now design patient specific shoe inlays with cutout sections for pressure sensors (for measuring pressure feet on ground). Currently, these are made by hand by cutting out sections. In time we would have the ability to add the sensors while printing, as we pause the print, insert sensors and then resume printing. The result would be a total integration of form, fit and function.


Next, for the integration of Electronics housings with the human body such as measuring (eg chest or arm sensor signals) nylon 618 would give housing flexibility so the sensor feels more comfortable on skin.


And extremely important are the applications where rotating joint parts are y's printed (eg ankle and other rotating joints). Currently there is no experience with printing these yet because the current plastics are not capable of handling the extreme forces. Printing these parts in ABS or pla would have too much friction and wear, whereas 618 is a solution due to its strength and slippery properties.


In sports medicine, there are similar cast and compression wraps that are used in all sports. However, the range of body size and shape varies from sport to sport. While a knee support or wrap may be designed for a soccer player at a specific size, it would not be applicable to a gymnast. With the combination of 3D Scanning and 3D Printing, a team doctor can now scan, modify and print on-demand an athlete specific knee brace that protects as well as feels proper in day to day use.

Cartilage replacements

One of the most exciting and closely watched new uses of patient specific 3D Printed components in 618 is joint cartilage replacement. These are often more difficult than bone replacements as the part must accurately conform to an existing internal bone structure, be pliable enough to conform to unusual mounting methods, be inherently strong to keep the joint from becoming misaligned by stress, and most important, provide a long term slippery surface to the mating surface.


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Posted in 3D Printing Materials


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parametricart.com wrote at 2/18/2013 3:38:46 PM:

That sounds pretty awesome, I've just started to build my Rostock 3D printer as well, I printed some of the parts already on my MakerBot Replicator2, now I have to assembly the electronics. It is really cool that you can print real bone replacements with an open-source home-built 3D printer.

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