Dec 14, 2014 | By Alec

3D printing technology has been making inroads into numerous industries through its sheer innovative strength in recent years. But of all the industries it is changing, surely none is as important or life altering as the medical field, where hitherto untreatable or incapacitating diseases and afflictions are suddenly becoming manageable thanks to 3D printed objects.

While we are bound to see 3D printed biomedical applications in our hospitals in a few years' time, most of these current life-altering 3D printed medical applications are highly precise implants. Just this week we reported on a young Chinese woman who received two 3D printed vertebrae to combat a number of tumors growing on her spine.

Now the New Zealand-based implant producer Ossis Ltd has announced to expand and revolutionize their production of 3D printed implants. The company has already been producing custom-made implants that have been individualized to suit specific patients since 2007, including acetabular revisions, hemi-pelvis replacements, spinal, cranial maxillo-facial, small-joint implants and fracture fixation devices.

However, they are now switching their focus on 3D printed titanium implants as part of an attempt to revolutionize orthopaedic surgery. Their initial focus will be on titanium bone and joint implants, that have already been extensively tested, proven and implemented, to be used on patients with severely damaged bone and joints, or facing permanent disability or amputation, to regain mobility and independent lifestyle.

While such implants (often made from titanium as that's a non-toxic material) have been produced using traditional manufacturing methods for a while, it was hitherto impossible to make exactly-fitting ones before surgery. Instead, rough versions were previously made and altered to fit during long, exhausting and traumatizing surgeries.

The advent of 3D printing has made it possible to create perfectly-fitting implants based on computer analysed scans that can be accurately transformed into 3D printed shapes. As Ossis revealed, 'Instead of surgeons piecing together off-the-shelf products during an operation and cutting away valuable bone to make an implant fit, we can work with surgeons to design the perfectly fitting implant prior to the operation. We then create an exact plastic model of the implant on our 3D printer to allow the surgeon to practise on and refer to in surgery.'

This process doesn't only significantly reduces the operation time and difficulty of the surgery. It also increases the surgery's chance of succeeding and improves patient satisfaction, while reducing the amount of necessary post-operation care.

Ossis's announcement to increase the availability of 3D printed implants coincides with a growing demand for them. Madeleine Martin, Ossis General Manager, explained that joint replacements and revision surgeries, along with other forms of implants, are being needed in ever growing numbers as obesity and life expectancy are growing as well. 'People are requesting joint replacements at a younger age, and with increasing functional expectations post-surgery. Age, genetics and obesity are not the only factors that can initiate progressive wear and tear on our bones and joints; our more extreme lifestyles often result in trauma.'

Ossis's 3D printed implants have already been successfully used to treat a number of patients, including two (the 67-year-old Evelyn and the 74-year-old Pamela) who were followed as part of a New Zealand current affairs programme.


Both were suffering from very complex disabilities; Evelyn had already received three implants in the past 30 years to combat a genetic hip disorder, while a failed surgery with a traditional implant left Pamela with a bacterial infection and a life in a wheelchair. Custom-made, uniquely shaped 3D printed implants proved to be perfect for both of them. Both operations were very successful and allowed both women to once again walk again painlessly, with hips fully capable of bearing the weight.

And, as Martin explained, patients like these are exactly the type of cases Ossis seeks to solve. 'What we are able to achieve for patients like Evelyn and Pamela is truly exciting, and we are getting increasing interest and enquiries from surgeons as a result. It is thanks to advances in 3D technology that we can custom design unique titanium implants and change lives.'

To accommodate a larger availability of 3D printed implants, Ossis has announced a number of investments in its own infrastructure and printing capacity. As martin stated, 'We are getting very busy and have a lot of new skeletal reconstruction projects in the pipeline with more and more enquiries coming in. We're committed to achieving the best clinical and patient outcomes, and we are continuing to evolve our technology so we can make more impossibles possible.'

Ossis is primarily focussed on patients in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania. Interested readers are invited to contact them to ask questions or enquire about their services through the company's website.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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Jim Sanders wrote at 3/19/2015 8:25:56 PM:

3D printed implants would be a huge development in the health sector. In their current plastic state, they mostly serve as references, but I know that 3D metal printers are in development. The possibilities that sort of technology would unlock is incredible! Jim |

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