Advances in 3D printing technology have begun to have a transformative effect on the medical community. We’ve all read the stories of 3D printed hands and other prosthetic devices, but that is only scratching the surface of how 3D printing has changed the way doctors treat our medical problems.
MRI’s can easily be turned into 3D models now, allowing doctors to pre-plan difficult or dangerous surgeries using 3D printed replicas of the areas being targeted by surgeons. They can also 3D print surgical guides, making tricky procedures like bone setting or reconstructive surgery faster and more accurate. And metal 3D printed medical appliances tailored to a specific patient’s body are becoming more and more common. Researchers are even looking into the possibility of 3D printing human tissue and organs. And now, we may be on the cusp of actually replacing human bones with 3D printed replicas.
A group of students developing a 3D printer that is capable of replicating human bone structures has been awarded as the Cal State Long Beach Innovation Challenge winners. The LuxNova OsBot 3D printer was developed by a group of students who say that it can replicate the unique and complex structure of human bones, even down to the micro and nanostructures.
As winners of the Innovation Challenge, LuxNova President/CEO Trevor Wagner and Lead Engineer Miguel Vintimilla will receive seed funds of $10,000 to launch their startup. The award also includes office space, assistance with developing a marketing strategy and assistance with negotiating the tricky legal intricacies of launching this type of business.
Direct bone transplants aren’t especially common as a broken bone can usually heal itself if it is set correctly. However there are certain types of bone cancers that currently require amputation to prevent the cancer cells from spreading. Bones printed with the OsBot could be used as grafts to replace cancerous tissue without partial or complete amputation.
The bones printed with the LuxNova OsBot 3D printer could also change the way common procedures like hip replacements are performed. The closer the 3D printed bone material matches actual bone the less chance there is of the body rejecting it, and healing time would be dramatically improved. Less common procedures like rotationplasty would also benefit from this 3D printed bone material, and given enough experimentation it could even become unnecessary and obsolete.
The Cal State Long Beach Innovation Challenge is co-sponsored by the colleges of Business Administration, Engineering and the Arts. The students who entered the challenge were required to include a complete business plan, including marketing, sales and distribution plans.
“Without the Innovation Challenge, this might have been a lost idea. Winning offers us the opportunity to further our research and development and to further our company as a whole,” explained Wagner. Here is a video of the winners explaining the OsBot from the April 9th awards ceremony held at the Pointe Conference Center at the Walter Pyramid:
Wagner, Vintimilla and LuxNova were judged by a panel that included several professional engineering executives, CSULB President Jane Close Conoley and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia who also took the quality of their presentations into account.
Technology like the OsBot has multiple medical and dental applications and if successful could be marketed to surgical facilities, dental practices, hospitals and medical research institutions. You can discuss other potential uses for the LuxNova OsBot 3D printer in the Human Bone forum at 3DPB.com.