Australia is rapidly growing as a nation with outstanding medical research expertise. In November 2016 the nation opened its first specialist biofabrication unit at the Herston Health Precinct in Brisbane, and projects at its leading institutions, including the University of Wollongong, are active in developing new paradigms in the world of 3D bioprinting.
‘Just in time implants’ is the title of a new AUD$12.1 million ($9.29 million USD) project run by the Australian Government, RMIT University, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and medical implant specialist Stryker.
The goal of the project is to apply 3D printing, robotics and advanced manufacturing to on-demand production of custom bone implants for cancer patients.
The future of implant surgery
Over the next five years Stryker, who recently entered into a healthcare partnership with GE Additive, will be providing the majority of the funding, with Australia’s Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC) providing AUD$2.36 million of the cash.
According to Rob Wood, Stryker’s Director of Research and Development for the 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,”
“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.”
Bringing technology to the operating theater
Professor Milan Brandt will be leading the Just in time implants project. His expertise, at RMIT School of Engineering, is in manufacturing, materials and mechatronics, specifically in the processing of Titanium. Explaining the project in further depth, Professor Brandt says, “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.”
Professor Peter Choong of St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, who helped develop the cell-writing BioPen, adds, “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.”
Featured image shows an example of products from the Just in time implants project funded by Stryker and the IMRC. Photo via IMRC