Just In Time Implants: New Australian Project Will Use 3D Printing and Robotic Surgery in Bone Cancer Treatment

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Global medical device manufacturing company Stryker fully committed to 3D printing technology in 2016, and over the past year has been making good on that commitment, with new partnerships and 3D printed medical products. Now, the company is funding a five-year research project in Australia, worth over AUD$12.1 million, between St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), RMIT University, and the Australian government that could advance tumor surgery using 3D printing technology.

The research project is called “Just in time implants,” and the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) is co-funding the work with AUD$2.36 million in cash. The collaboration will combine advanced manufacturing, robotic surgery, and 3D printing to make custom implants for patients suffering from bone cancer.

IMCRC CEO and Managing Director David Chuter said, “This is a significant research investment into Australia by Stryker – seeing a global organisation collaborating with two Australian universities and a local hospital. It highlights how Australia’s medtech environment offers research partners a unique setting for innovative research programs.

“Specifically, this project will establish advanced manufacturing capabilities that will ensure competitive advantage domestically and internationally. It will also train a new generation of engineers and researchers in medical robotics and the additive manufacturing of medical implants.”

Chuter explained that research innovation in manufacturing can help create not only better products, but also better processes and services.

[Image: IMCRC]

“Our aim is to bring the technology to the theatre. While patients are having their cancer removed in the operating theatre, in the next room, we are custom printing an implant to precisely fill the space left after removal of the diseased bone,” said RMIT Professor Milan Brandt, the lead researcher on the project.

The novel process that the research team is working to develop is set to “dramatically improve patient and healthcare outcomes,” says the IMCRC, as it will change how physicians go about treating bone cancer and the resulting tumors; while the process the Australian researchers are developing may be new, using 3D printing technology to help understand and treat bone cancer is not.

St Vincent’s Hospital’s Professor and orthopaedic surgeon Peter Choong said, “By combining specialised imaging techniques, 3D printing and the accuracy of robotic assisted surgery, we are aiming to deliver a personalised implant in time for the surgeon to remove the cancer and repair the patient’s bone in the one operation.

“This process will expand the surgical options available to patients and surgeons and increase the potential for limb saving surgery.”

[Image: RMIT]

Additionally, the process is representative of a major change in how these types of implants are designed and built, and bespoke local manufacturing, along with a shift in the way the implants are supplied, could arise from the collaborative research project.

“This is the future of implants and robotic surgery. Australia is leading the way globally in developing and implementing new manufacturing models and technology in the medical space – combining robotic surgery and additive manufacturing,” said Rob Wood, the Director of Research and Development for Stryker South Pacific.

“We are extremely excited about this project and the incredible benefits that this research will deliver to patients in Australia and across the world.”

The impact and future results of the five-year research project are far-reaching – according to Professor Emmanuel Josserand, the Director of the Centre for Business and Social Innovation at UTS, this work will also influence the Australian economy and business, as it works on switching to more advanced manufacturing methods.

Professor Josserand explained, “Not only will there be direct business opportunities for Australian companies to become medical suppliers to Stryker, with its global supply chains, but there will also be an opportunity for the technologies and manufacturing know-how developed within this project to transfer over time to other local industries.

“These sorts of advanced manufacturing capabilities will ensure competitive advantage for Australian businesses, domestically and internationally.”

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[Source: IMCRC]

 

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