Jan 25, 2016 | By Alec

Though its adoption has been gradual, 3D printing has been making a name for itself as an excellent manufacturing technology for custom surgical models, tools and even implants used in unusual surgeries. However, its potential is obviously far greater than those existing medical applications, and a collaborative effort by Two Dutch companies has resulted in a number of new applications that could greatly benefit both surgeons and dentists. Atum 3D, from Tilburg, has developed a special 3D printer for the production of drilling molds used in dental operations, while Xilloc has developed a surgical guide mold that will greatly improve the incision efficiency during complex surgeries.

The two companies involved in this collaboration are known Dutch 3D printing experts. Atum 3D was founded back in 2014 by Tristram Budel in Tilburg, and has developed a unique resin 3D printing technique involving a projector that deposits layers of liquid resin – a technique similar to SLA that especially speeds up high quality resin 3D printing. Budel is currently working on commercializing this technique, and the ADAM project was an excellent opportunity to take it further. Xilloc, of course, is a Dutch specialist in medical 3D printing based on the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Sittard-Geleen. It was founded back in 2011 by Maikel Beerens with the goal of developing 3D printed titanium implants. Less than a year ago, they began commercializing artificial 3D printed CT bones and recently adopted 4 EOS 3D printers to cope with production demands. They also have plans for 3D printing real bone.

Together, they teamed up in the ADAM project, which is short for Advanced Dutch Additive Manufacturing. This project has been set up by OP-Zuid, a EU-backed subsidy program aimed at developing innovations in the south of the Netherlands. Through Op-Zuid, ADAM received €1.8 million in funds, of which €800,000 was an OP-Zuid subsidy provided by the European Union and the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The project was also backed by Brightlands Chemelot Campus, an initiative financially supported by the province of Limburg and responsible for investing in 3D printers and taking care of the business development portion of the project. “This project has successfully brought together various parties. It proves that 3D printing, praised as a promising technology, is now delivering on these promises and that Limburg is actually reaping the benefits of developing this technology,” Twan Beurskens of the Limburg Provincial Executive for Economic Affairs and Knowledge Infrastructure said of the ADAM 3D printing project.

Atum 3D's prototype for a 3D printed dental mold.

So what have they achieved through this collaboration? Atum 3D has been focusing on dental care, and has developed a ne 3D printer which can be used to manufacture custom dental drilling guides, that can enable a dentist to optimize drilling accuracy in terms of direction and depth. This should make the placement of dental implants far more accurate than before. Atum 3D argues that this 3D printer is perfect for (small-scale) applications in clinics and dental practices, especially as the 3D printer uses their very quick custom DLP (digital light processing) 3D printing technique. Importantly, the results are bio-compatible and the same technique will also be used to develop other dental tools, including crowns and bridgework, in the near future.

As Atum 3D explains, the ADAM project has enabled them to further their technological developments with leaps and bounds over the past year. Within the ADAM project, they have especially focused on developing these medically certified materials that can be 3D printed without support pieces and are fully biocompatible. They say these drill guides will enable dentists to more carefully plan and execute surgeries, reducing the risks for patients and significantly shortening operation times. Their 3D prints have already been used to place dental implants.

The T-Rex 3D printer.

Through ADAM, they have also developed their latest 3D printer, the interestingly named T-Rex. As the name suggests, its particularly large – featuring a print surface about six times larger than is conventional for resin 3D printers. However, they have already stated that it is primarily to be used for 3D printing large numbers of small objects at extreme speeds, supposedly rivalling injection molding manufacturing.

Xilloc's surgical guide prototype, 3D printed on the EOS P396 3D printer (above).

However Atum 3D wasn’t the only one to benefit from the ADAM project, as Xilloc developed an equally functional incision mold to be used by surgeons. This guide tool should help the surgeon optimize the incision placement, resulting in a quicker and more accurate operation. Crucially, it will make them less invasive for patients as well, optimizing the recovery period. This new surgical instrument was 3D printed on one of Xilloc’s in-house EOS P396 SLS 3D printers, using a powered polyamide material. Though still a prototype, this incision mold is currently being developed further in collaboration with surgeons. Meanwhile, Xilloc is also conducting research on other materials and applications for their medical 3D printing products, with an eye on developing more implants and tools.

In short, the ADAM project is thus exploring the limits and potential of medical 3D printing innovations in the Netherlands, and it is already clear that surgical models and implants form just the tip of the 3D printing iceberg.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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