THE reconstruction of a badly injured motorcyclist’s face with a 3D printer has been hailed a “major development” by a Bolton expert.
Philip Cotton is the UK’s number one teacher of 3D printing and is based at Ladybridge School, where he teaches product design and technology.
He said: “I have seen the before and after pictures and the results are really good.
“It shows that using the 3D technology produces better results for the patient. It is more accurate than a surgeon having to shape the titanium plate with a hammer. It is fantastic.”
Stephen Power, aged 29, from South Wales, had an eight-hour operation after medical staff at Swansea’s Morriston Hospital scanned 3D images of his face to help work out how best to reassemble his left cheek and eye socket after he was injured in a crash.
The team used scanned 3D images of Mr Power’s face to design guides to cut and position the bones, as well as plates to hold the bones in place.
All the models, along with the finished guides and medical-grade titanium implants, were produced by 3D printing.
Using the technology, the team produced virtual models, along with the medical-grade titanium implants to hold his bones in place.
Mr Cotton said he knew 3D printing would be revolutionary in all industries.
He added: “I didn’t think this would happen so quickly, although 3D printing is moving very quickly and it is a struggle to keep on top of it.
“3D printing can be used to create skin grafts for burns victims, whereas before skin would have had to have been taken from other parts of the body.
“The next big thing will be dentistry — there will be no need for moulds.”
The teacher said it was important young people understood the technology.
Some of his students are already having their Computer Aided Design models published on websites, which will earn them money, and are using YouTube to train others.