Nov.6, 2012

Many people who have lost their noses because of cancer or injury have to go through an uncomfortable and difficult process to get prosthetic noses. First plaster of Paris is inserted directly into the cavity to take an impression of the area. But your new nose will only last six to nine months. Both the material and colour start to deteriorate with exposure to cosmetics (to disguise the 'join'), sweat, pollution, UV light and other environmental 'insults'. This means going back to the maxillofacial centre to get a new one, and - because each nose is handmade - the quality inevitably varies, so there's no guarantee it will be as good as the last one.

At the University of Sheffield, a team of researchers exploring biomaterials and implants believe digital 3D technologies could make the process easier and more comfortable for patients. Already, dentists are using 3D printing technology to make crowns and onlays to order in their surgeries. Professor Ric Van Noort and his colleagues wanted to use a similar process to replace the soft tissues of missing ears and noses.

Creating fleshlike prostheses, as opposed to porcelain teeth or crowns, posed a unique set of challenges. The material used would have to be strong, flexible and biocompatible (unlikely to trigger a toxic or allergic reaction when inserted into human skin). The colour would have to match the patient's specific skin tone exactly, and the whole prosthesis would need to blend as invisibly as possible into the surrounding face.

The team approached Fripp Design and Research with the design problem and they began to working together to develop a solution. They adopted 3D printing technology to produce customised soft-tissue facial prostheses.

Using 2D and 3D cameras they took photos of their client at different angles. Then CAD software, designed by Fripp Design and Research, went to work, morphing the 2D and 3D images and ensuring that the contours, texture and skin tone matched their client's face exactly so the join between her new nose and the rest of her face would be almost invisible.

The 3D file was then ready for printing. The data is manufactured on a 3D color printer using starch powder, the 100% biocompatible material. "as important is the fact that we have developed a system using biocompatible materials; this is a real breakthrough for powder based 3D Printing". said Professor Ric Van Noort of the University of Sheffield.

Once it had been printed out the nose was the right shape but very brittle, so there was one more stage to go. To soften and strengthen the printed nose, the researchers soaked it with a very low viscosity, medical-grade silicone fluid. They created a computer programme to adjust the colour of the image so the final product will match the patient's skin tone exactly.

The new nose made of powder is lightweight and comfortable to wear. For the patient, her 'product file' could be stored electronically, and replacements can be printed directly off at the push of a button without her having to travel back to the clinic again. For Healthcare providers the process is faster and the cost of manufacture is much lower than the traditional way.

The team hope their product will bring relief to the thousands of people around the world who don't yet have access to any kind of prosthesis.

Watch the video below to see how 3D printing technology is used to revolutionise the facial rebuilding industry.


Source: wellcome


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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