A joint partnership organized and partially funded by Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), has enabled Japanese industry and academia to develop the first additive manufacturing system for printing custom made, artificial bone.
Developed by researchers at the medical technology firm NEXT21 K.K. and the University of Tokyo’s brain science institute RIKEN, the new printer is capable of creating artificial bone material that is accurate up to 0.1mm (0.0039in).
Building artificial bone from calcium phosphate, which is a component of both human bones and teeth, the printer’s product should be able to integrate directly into a patient’s body where it will fuse with existing bone.
According to NEDO, this new printing technology makes the complicated process of bone grafting much easier, reducing the healing time for patients suffering from broken limbs or bone removal due to cancer therapies.
Next21is set to begin a series of trials that will last around 10 months. If successful, the company hopes to roll their printer out across Asia, providing artificial bone replacement therapies to hospitals across the continent.
While deals to license the technology are underway in both the Netherlands and Canada, no timetable has been set for the printer’s introduction into the European and North American markets. In addition to the mystery of whether this technology will be declared medically safe are questions of how the system actually builds its osseous products and what a machine of this caliber will cost.
While those issues are certainly interesting to those working with state of the art AM systems, the fact that 3D printers might soon aid in the mending of broken bones and incomplete skeletons is an enthralling development all around.
Image Courtesy of NEDO