In a transplant in Spain, the world's first 3D-printed rib developed by scientists from Australia was successfully used.
Designed and printed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), the prosthetic rib was used in a procedure on a 54-year-old Spanish man who had been suffering from a chest wall sarcoma, a tumor that grows in and around the rib cage.
Australia's Minister for Industry and Science, Ian Macfarlane, praised the world-first print saying the titanium sternum and rib implant was a testament to how far scientific research had come in Australia.
"This breakthrough is an impressive example of what can be achieved when industry and science come together," Macfarlane said. "This collaboration crossed disciplines and international boundaries, with a clear benefit for both this individual patient and for surgical practice," he said.
The rib was commissioned to be designed by Melbourne-based company Anatomics and was printed at the CSIRO's 3D-printing facility, Lab 22. Anatomics CEO Andrew Batty said the key to the design of the rib structure lay in metallic 3D printing. "We wanted to 3D print the implant from titanium because of its complex geometry and design," Batty said on Friday.
Meanwhile, Alex Kingsbury, a 3D-printing expert from the CSIRO, said the intricate process of printing the rib was much more effective than using "traditional manufacturing methods."
"The printer works by directing an electron beam at a bed of titanium powder in order to melt it. This process is then repeated, building the product up layer-by-layer until you have a complete implant," Kingsbury said. "3D printing has significant advantages over traditional manufacturing methods, particularly for biomedical applications," he said.
Doctor Jose Aranda from Spain's Salamanca University Hospital said the rib "fitted like a glove", and the patient was discharged 12 days after the surgery. "The operation was very successful," said Aranda.
"Thanks to 3D-printing technology and a unique resection template, we were able to create a body part that was fully customized and fitted like a glove."