Read our blog for all the latest in the world of 3D printing


posted 11 May 2016 at 13:27:15

The latest contender for a No Way! Award for the use of 3D printing in Medicine goes to... the 'Wolverine rib cage'. This groundbreaking, lightweight titanium device was custom-3D printed to replace the sternum and four ribs of a 54 year-old Spanish man, whose own had to be removed during an operation to eradicate a cancerous tumour from the wall of his chest.

Because of the complexity of the rib cage, it has, until now, been almost impossible to replicate one artificially. However, by CT scanning the patient’s chest, rapid prototyping by medical device company Anatomics, of Melbourne, Australia, perfectly replicated the man's chest cavity and the tumour.

The titanium rib cage was then printed by engineers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) using a $1.3 million metal printer. The printer used an electron beam to melt titanium powder, according to Alex Kingsbury, who worked on the medical device. The machine then printed one layer of the surgical grade titanium alloy on top of another to form the rib cage.

‘As each layer is fused, you start to build up a product,’ says Kingsbury. ‘It would be an incredibly complex piece to manufacture traditionally, in fact, you know, almost impossible.’

You can watch a video of the rib cage being printed here:

Image: © Anatomics