6 Amazing 3D-Printed Body Parts That Changed Patients’ Lives

There’s been a lot of hype around 3D printing, but its applications in medicine are real.

Advances in “additive manufacturing” — the industrial version of 3D printing — are being applied toward federally approved medical devices, and have enabled surgeons from Scotland to Chicago to inexpensively visualize medical procedures before performing them. But that’s far from all: Doctors are also crafting personalized bones and joints for their patients.

The devices and materials used today in a medical context often go well beyond the plastic and resin prototypes commonly associated with 3D printing; though in both cases, machines add successive layers of materials together to form an object that can then be refined. The industrial-grade printers used for medical purposes or military manufacturing, however, use focused electron beams and powdered metal alloys to create parts, not plastic feedstock.

Medical researchers are now exploring how to print human tissue — so-called “bioprinting” — and building upon the basic science to enable doctors to make organs some day.

Here are six remarkable examples of body parts that 3D printers have already been used to create. (Warning: Some of the videos included are graphic.)

1) A new cranium

In 2014, a Dutch woman received the first full 3D-printed skull implant.

“Implants used to be made by hand in the operating theatre using a sort of cement which was far from ideal,” Dr. Ben Verweij, a neurologist who led the medical team that crafted the prosthetic bone, told Dutch News. “Using 3D printing we can make one to the exact size. This not only has great cosmetic advantages, but patients’ brain function often recovers better than using the old method.”

2) A new vertebra

In 2014, a 12 year-old <a target="_blank" href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/12/chinese-boy-implanted-with-3d-printed-vertebra_n_5805910.html" —> Read More