Oct 30, 2017 | By Tess

A recent collaboration between the Australian government, Melbourne’s RMIT University, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), St. Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, and medical tech company Stryker is aiming to solidify the country’s prominent place within the 3D printed implant industry.

The five parties are teaming up for a five-year project called “Just in time implants,” through which they will develop 3D printed patient-specific implants for people undergoing tumor removal and bone cancer treatment.

The innovative 3D printing implant project, which has accumulated AU $12.1 million ($9.3M) in funding, is being supported by medical tech company Stryker as well as Australia’s Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), part of the government’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

According to Milan Brandt, a lead researcher on the project, the joint team will be leveraging additive manufacturing technologies to produce patient-specific implants which can be manufactured on the spot during a patient’s bone tumor removal surgery.

The idea, he says, it to have the 3D printer operating pretty much alongside the surgery, so the implant can be as bespoke as possible. “Our aim is to bring the technology to the theatre,” Brandt explained.

The goal, which fits with the project’s name “Just in time implants,” is described further by Professor Peter Choong, a researcher at St. Vincent’s Hospital:

“By combining specialized imaging techniques, 3D printing and the accuracy of robotic assisted surgery, we are aiming to deliver a personalized implant in time for the surgeon to remove the cancer and repair the patient’s bone in the one operation. This process will expand the surgical options available to patients and surgeons and increase the potential for limb saving surgery.”

Traditionally, implants are either standardized in terms of shape and size or can take weeks to deliver if they are customized. Evidently, having to either wait ages for a bespoke implant or having to settle for an ill-fitting one are not great options. 3D printing, as has been proven in recent years, is offering a new, more adaptable avenue for implant manufacturing.

The technology enables doctors and medical professionals to model implants based off of a patient’s specific CT scan or MRI and have them produced using medical grade materials, such as titanium or certain polymers, in a much shorter time frame than using conventional manufacturing.

What is notable about Australia’s Just in time project, is that by having the implant 3D printer in the hospital, even adjacent to the operating theater, the implant production can be sped up even more—cutting shipping time entirely by printing the implants on the spot.

“This is a significant research investment into Australia by Stryker—seeing a global organization collaborating with two Australian universities and a local hospital,” commented David Chuter, CEO and managing director of IMCRC. “It highlights how Australia’s medtech environment offers research partners a unique setting for innovative research programs.”

Beyond improving patient care, the initiative will also help to train medical engineers in additive manufacturing, making the technology more accessible within the country and thus more exploitable.

Professor Emmanuel Josserand, the director of UTS’ Centre for Business and Social Innovation, even believes that the Just in time implants project will have an impact on Australia’s business sector and overall economy.

“Not only will there be direct business opportunities for Australian companies to become medical suppliers to Stryker, with its global supply chains, but there will also be an opportunity for the technologies and manufacturing know-how developed within this project to transfer over time to other local industries,” he said.

“These sorts of advanced manufacturing capabilities will ensure competitive advantage for Australian businesses, domestically and internationally,” he added.

Stryker, a Michigan-based medical technology company, has been making significant inroads into the medical 3D printing sector recently. This summer, for instance, the company gained the support of GE Additive through a partnership to grow Stryker’s medical 3D printing capabilities. The company has also received FDA clearance for various 3D printed implants.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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