3D Printing

3D Printing and Craniofacial Surgery

You will have probably heard of 3D printing being used for prosthesis for both animal and humans, but what about for facial surgery? The application of 3D scanning and printing has been used as a means of creating a custom tool for people and animals who are missing a working limb for some time, but the need for this technology in plastic surgery is no different. Every person is different. They have different needs, different problems and their bodies work in different ways. However, this has taken yet another step forward, into the realms of bio-cell printing for the creation of scaffolds for tissue engineering and eventually printing organs.

In the instance of craniofacial surgery, the deformities or malformations are very different depending on the patient, though they mostly occur in the bone. In these cases, the patient would need a 3D printed structure that fits with the patients facial structure perfectly. In order to create this, there are several stages: (1) a 3D scan of the patient’s face (2) 3D image processing, where the area of interest is selected (3) mathematical surface modelling of the anatomic surfaces, (4) formatting of data for printing (5) model building, and (6) quality checking, as well as checking it will fit. This application of 3D scanning and printing not only makes the process more tailored to each patient, but it also makes the process quicker than other customised alternatives. However, there are some downsides such as accuracy of scans and possible errors that are inevitable with digital technology.


Despite downsides, 3D printing technology allows for more successful patient consultation, helps with diagnosis, and also aids location whilst installing during surgery. As bio-cell printing technology develops, it is hoped one day tissues and organs will be able to be custom made for transplant patients, so both today and in the future, 3D printing technology is proving to be a beneficial tool to both patients and doctors alike.