In this case a child who had been involved in a traffic accident needed urgent treatment for a head injury. This required a titanium plate to be fitted to her skull.
X-ray CT data medical scan data of the patients head was processed and loaded into an additive manufacturing machine (HP 3D colour printer) to “print” a plastic model of the injury site.
This model was then sent to Sheffield Northern General Hospital, where a skilled team of anaplastologists, led by Dr Frank Johnson, used the model as a guide to form a thin (0.5mm) sheet of titanium using a superplastic forming process (developed originally in the aerospace sector).
Compared to previous approaches, based on manual measurements of the injury the implant is very accurate and can be fitted onto the patient with little modification, reducing operating times from several hours to under 60 minutes.
This route gives improved outcomes for patients, whilst at the same time reduced the treatment cost for the NHS.
Work is now underway at the MTC (HVM Catapult) to utilise the next generation of Additive Manufacturing machines, which can print metal parts, for the direct production of complex implants, thus offering even greater benefits, including design freedom, enabling patients to be treated more effectively and efficiently.