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February 7, 2012 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Woman, 83, Has World’s First Lower Jaw Replacement – In 3D [abc.com] In what has been called the first operation of its kind, an 83-year-old woman in the Netherlands has been fitted with a custom-made artificial jaw that was created by a 3D printer. The titanium implant, which weighs less than 4 ounces, was created by taking a CT scan of the woman’s lower jaw and duplicating it with a 3D printer that lays down titanium powder instead of ink. The printer followed the pattern of the woman’s jaw bone layer by layer, fusing the titanium powder in place with heat. In just a couple hours, the 3D replica was ready.
posted by Fizz (43 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I give this operation two thumbs up.
posted by scrowdid at 3:29 PM on February 7, 2012 [18 favorites]


Is there something unique about the mandible that makes it a good candidate for this kind of replacement? Put another way, are there other bones that wouldn't be good candidates for this kind of replacement, perhaps owing to their integration into a lot of different body tissues/systems?
posted by resurrexit at 3:37 PM on February 7, 2012


Bah! I want to see this done with her own cultured bone cells using a modified ink jet printer!

OK, really I just want to culture my own bone cells so I can make a flute out of my own DIY spare femur.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:41 PM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here's the original press release from about five days ago, with somewhat more details.

I thought it was especially cool that the person was able to talk and use her jaw on the very same day after the operation.
posted by markkraft at 3:42 PM on February 7, 2012


Shit just got real.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 3:43 PM on February 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


We've been doing hips for years now. The 3D printer is relatively new technology for this purpose.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:44 PM on February 7, 2012


Screw the medical applications -- think of the bitchin' custom car parts you could make!

(Priorities. I lack them.)
posted by LordSludge at 3:44 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I give this operation two thumbs up.

Yeah, my immediate thought was, "Ebert! EBERT!"
posted by Gator at 3:45 PM on February 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


Did they really need to put their logo on her new jaw?
posted by cazoo at 3:46 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


resurrexit: There are definitely shapes that are extraordinarily difficult or impossible to create with traditional subtractive fabrication techniques (i.e., machining them out of a block of solid material). The curved shape of the jaw may make it a bad candidate for those processes.
posted by aubilenon at 3:46 PM on February 7, 2012


scrowdid: "I give this operation two thumbs up."

Oh yes. Ebert should be next! Assuming he wants to and that's a viable option for him.
posted by zardoz at 3:47 PM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Very cool. Not to detract from the achievement, but custom jaws have been made before with subtractive manufacturing. This is the first time they've used 3-d printing though.

Also, credit where it's due: most of the work was done in Belgian universities.
posted by atrazine at 3:47 PM on February 7, 2012


Not the first.
posted by modernserf at 3:47 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Screw the medical applications -- think of the bitchin' custom car parts you could make!


You need to read Richard Morgan's SF book Altered Carbon. It's all about the ability to digital transfer our consciousness in and out of different bodies. Body modification has reached such a degree that you can jump in and out of various bodies once you tire of them. Want wings - graft them on. Hate your wings - want a giant seahorse appendage. Go for it. Did your body just get mutilated in a car crash. Buy a new one.
posted by Fizz at 3:49 PM on February 7, 2012


Did they really need to put their logo on her new jaw?

If I could get some new lumbar vertabrae I would gladly get a tramp stamp of the maker's logo.
posted by longsleeves at 3:50 PM on February 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


zardoz: "scrowdid: "I give this operation two thumbs up."

Oh yes. Ebert should be next! Assuming he wants to and that's a viable option for him.
"

I'm doubt he'd be interested. He's made his opinions about 3D technology pretty clear.


(Sorry if that seems inappropriate. I don't know the man, but after watching, reading, and loving him for many years, I like to think he'd find that joke amusing... or at least not offensive.)

posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:56 PM on February 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


If I could get some new lumbar vertabrae I would gladly get a tramp stamp of the maker's logo.

Isn't the main problem with the lumbar spine usually degeneration of the spongy intervertebal discs? Would a new segment of vertebrae bone do anything to help there?
posted by T.D. Strange at 3:57 PM on February 7, 2012


"3D printer" sounds a lot cooler than "machine that sprays titanium," but I really fail to see how this is a "printer" in any meaningful sense. Does the thing that squirts the goop into the mold at the Hostess factory "print" Twinkies?
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:59 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


From what I understand, she'll be getting the rest of her skeleton done in titanium too. And retractable claws. And will become a hired killer working for a shadowy arm of the Canadian government.
posted by adamrice at 4:04 PM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


"3D printer" sounds a lot cooler than "machine that sprays titanium," but I really fail to see how this is a "printer" in any meaningful sense. Does the thing that squirts the goop into the mold at the Hostess factory "print" Twinkies?

No Hostess factory uses lasers to fuse together Twinkie particles out of a 3D model of a Twinkie.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:04 PM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Isn't the main problem with the lumbar spine usually degeneration of the spongy intervertebal discs? Would a new segment of vertebrae bone do anything to help there?

You are correct. I was just funning a little. I already have the ruins of the Acropolis tattoed there anyway.
posted by longsleeves at 4:05 PM on February 7, 2012


I think this works without a mold. The "mold" is an image in a computer.

I guess if you wanted to you could use this technology to print a mold, and then cast many copies of this woman's mandible.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:06 PM on February 7, 2012


"3D printer" sounds a lot cooler than "machine that sprays titanium," but I really fail to see how this is a "printer" in any meaningful sense.

Consider that a traditional printer is simply a "machine that sprays ink." A 3d printer is differentiated from an extruder (e.g. a Twinkie machine) primarily by its resolution and the structural properties of the medium, which gives it the ability to make arbitrary shapes. I suspect a sponge cake batter extruder would have a pretty hard time make a mandible-shaped Twinkie.
posted by jedicus at 4:08 PM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


good lord i just mis-read "woman" as "wolfman" and this was really exciting
posted by neuromodulator at 4:08 PM on February 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


"3D printer" sounds a lot cooler than "machine that sprays titanium," but I really fail to see how this is a "printer" in any meaningful sense. Does the thing that squirts the goop into the mold at the Hostess factory "print" Twinkies?

It's basically just jargon -- well accepted at this point -- for an additive manufacturing device. The concept that you can simply reprogram it to "print" anything you can create a digital file for is basically the reason for the analogy. I'm not sure what the problem with using this term is. Does it somehow confuse you, or (as I believe) does it illuminate instantly what the new technology does? It's going to be one of the big new technologies this century.
posted by dhartung at 4:33 PM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's going to be one of the big new technologies this century.

Totally. I remember reading about this in Wired in about 1993 thinking, holy shit!
posted by KokuRyu at 4:36 PM on February 7, 2012


I'm a cybernetic organism. Living tissue over metal endoskeleton.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:38 PM on February 7, 2012


Jeez, and I thought my jaw was fancy.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 4:53 PM on February 7, 2012


Yeah, my immediate thought was, "Ebert! EBERT!"

Mr. Ebert addressed this on his Facebook page yesterday. He said he's done with surgeries and is actually quite happy with his life right now.
posted by NoMich at 4:56 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I quote:
A lot of friendly people have forwarded this link to me. Unfortunately, this technology comes way too late to help me, and might not have been appropriate at the time. Nor--here's the funny part--would I really want it. The opportunity to have another surgery and another hospital stay fails to appeal. I'm sitting here quite happily posting the link, and that's good enough for me.
posted by NoMich at 4:57 PM on February 7, 2012


That grandmother is out there. She can't be reasoned with, she can't be bargained with, and she absolutely will not stop, until she has baked you something really delicious even though you just popped in for ten minutes to say hello and are just on your way to the...oh, okay, nanna, yes we love your apple crumble, yes we will wait until you have baked us an apple crumble, go out into the yard and play kids. Oh you already have fruit cake in the pantry that you just baked? Yes sure I'll have a slice of that while we wait for the crumble. Yes another cuppa would be lovely.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:57 PM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


He said he's done with surgeries and is actually quite happy with his life right now.

Who cares what he wants? I want him to speak again.
posted by Gator at 5:13 PM on February 7, 2012


He said he's done with surgeries and is actually quite happy with his life right now.

Who cares what he wants? I want him to speak again.


I'm sure that Roger would love to be able to speak normally again too (at least without computer assistance), but after reading about the grueling toll of all of his various surgeries and treatments thus far, I think we can all respect his wishes.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:53 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


...think of the bitching' custom car parts you could make!

Jay Leno, though reviled as a television personality, has one hell of a collection of old, often unique cars. He has several 3d printers and at least one scanner that his mechanics use to fabricate replacement parts when they aren't otherwise available.
posted by zrail at 6:19 PM on February 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


If any Mefites in SF are interested in this technology, the Autodesk Gallery has exhibits about 3D design and printing. The technology is there to be able to print kidneys, livers, etc. (it's just another kind of material). While the gallery does not have a liver-printer, it is free and open to the public on Wednesday between noon and 5, with a guided tour at 12:30. It's pretty neat; there's a giant Lego dinosaur! (Also, I'm a tour guide, so if there's interest, I could arrange a private Metafilter tour. Let me know.)
posted by sfkiddo at 6:55 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


So how strong are the "printed" parts, compared to traditional casting and forging?

Yes, I'm still working the car angle, imagining printing custom crankshafts, connecting rods, pushrods, etc. Titanium is commonly used in high-end engines to save weight (well, mass) on reciprocating parts compared to steel, thereby letting the engine safely rev higher and make more power. But if the strength isn't there for this process, then it's not a viable process.
posted by LordSludge at 7:11 PM on February 7, 2012


> so if there's interest, I could arrange a private Metafilter tour

Ooh, neat! I'm in - anybody else interested?
posted by Quietgal at 7:33 PM on February 7, 2012


The technology is there to be able to print kidneys, livers, etc. (it's just another kind of material).

I would be really curious to hear more about this, since it's obviously not being used yet for organ transplantation in people. Kidneys, livers, and other organs are not simply solid masses of the same material, they are incredibly complex arrangements of a huge variety of different lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, fluid, etc. You can't just put down layers of jello (or even layers of living cells, for that matter) in the shape of an organ and expect it to function. A jawbone, on the other hand, can be made all out of the same thing (titanium) and will do its job very well, because it's just there for structure.
posted by vytae at 7:46 PM on February 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Note that my answers below are not from a scientist, so grab your salt shaker. But what I understand is as follows:

@LordSludge: As to strength, weaknesses in a form would come from a structural flaw in the design. So if you were hand-crafting a part, human error could result in a flaw and make it weaker. If you have a 3-D model, not only can you see flaws in the design, you can also run simulations involving stress, force, etc.

@vytae: Absolutely, living tissues are not "simply solid masses of the same material." However, biological scientists are now doing models of viruses, diseases, organs, etc. It's the same concept as creating a model of a building and then running simulations; but instead of seeing how load/wind/etc. will effect a building, you could build a model on how the other organs/biological systems will effect an organ. (Sorry, I'm not a scientist, but I do have more in-depth info, if you're interested.)
posted by sfkiddo at 7:58 PM on February 7, 2012


One issue with 3-D parts is the resolution of the printer. Most 3D prints are not going to be accurate to withing a few thousandth's of an inch, the way a machined part is / needs to be, so it's not like you can pull a part out of the printer and stick it in an engine, but this would get you to rough castings.

As for strength, that depends on the material being printed and how it's fused. Most metal objects use selective laser sintering. I'm not sure how tough or hard the parts made that way are when compared to a solid cast and soaked steel part.

Humanity first did a vat grown bladder about ten years ago. It's in the guy at 12:44 in this video. That was done with a scaffolding technology because 3D printing just wasn't there yet.

To be sure, there are certain organs that are will never be created with 3D printing technology (you couldn't do a spleen because you couldn't culture up the B-cell repertoire), and others that aren't happening in the foreseeable future. But kidneys, livers and bladders all pretty much function as an effect of their structure. When you can lay down organs one cell at a time you don't have to use the same material. Switching cell types is just like switching color with an ink jet printer. The big problems are (as with the crank shaft) resolution and printing the organ fast enough that the cells don't die during the process. Here's a paper where they're trying to speed the process by using sub-assemblies as the unit of, er, ink in their printer.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:57 PM on February 7, 2012


I thought all elderly people were already equipped with titanium jaws, what with their obsession with rock candy.
posted by Ritchie at 2:38 AM on February 8, 2012


I'm so happy I lived long enough to see the future. It's really, really cool.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:33 AM on February 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Most metal objects use selective laser sintering. I'm not sure how tough or hard the parts made that way are when compared to a solid cast and soaked steel part.

Exactly my question. I wouldn't be surprised if the laser-sintered material is extremely weak, compared to casting or forging. Doesn't much matter for medical application or making trinkets or decorations that will never take a significant load, but hugely important for many other applications.
posted by LordSludge at 1:59 PM on February 9, 2012


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