Large Image Display: The Layerwise Jaw

The LayerWise Jaw, created by a collaboration between the Orbis Medisch Centrum Sittard-Geleen facility, the company LayerWise in Leuven, Belgium, and Biomed research group of the University Hasselt also in Belgium. The jaw itself is a unique one-off that will never be recreated, and is currently serving as the lower jaw of an 83 year old woman. However, it is the technology behind the jaw that makes it so special - as it allows custom designed jawbones and other skeletal structures, tailored to the body structure of each patient. Or even simply tailored to fit with the individual bodystructure of each patient. It is a huge leap forwards in bridging the gap between prosthetics designed to minimise the loss of function, and bionics designed to improve over the natural function that used to be there.

The jaw uses 3D printing in its construction. This one was made using a technique known as additive manufacturing, in which individual grains of a material are added to the whole, one step at a time to build up the complete product. In this case, a single solid piece of titanium, two joint pieces and a coating of bioceramic. All the pieces were printed at the same time, using titanium and ceramic in powdered form, fused together by a precision laser. When finished, the joints moved independently, despite being encased in the bioceramic - complex moving parts printed in a single piece. The ability to do this in a medical implant, opens up a range of possibilities for both prosthetic and bionic work. The jaw doesn't have to exactly match the other one for example, so long as it hinges in the right places and holds the teeth in the correct places. This would work wonders for some individuals seeking to correct an overbite, or wishing for a larger, or smaller jaw as part of body dystopia corrective surgery. It has fir the first time, entered the realm of possibility.

In addition, because the jaw creation process is to a large extent automated, and the printing process both simple and inexpensive, it opens up the very real possibility of functional, advanced prosthetics being made available to the general population, not just those with a large bank account. Certainly, with a properly outfitted hospital, such a jaw could be produced for the cost of a CT scan, the cost of the material powder, and the surgeon's time in performing the implant operation. This prototype took four hours to print, and slightly less than that to complete the operation itself. The operation was out-patient, and the woman receiving it was able to speak a few words with it by the end of the day. In other words, it comes with a fast turn-around, and minimal hospital stay.

Further Reading

Large Image Display: Making a Bespoke Jaw

Large Image Display: Teeth Designed for Prosthetic Jaws

Large Image Display: Connecting Teeth to Artificial Bone

The Dawn of 3D Printed Prosthetics

Are prosthetics Obsolete? Priced out of The Heal Game

References

Form Fitting Prosthetics Using DICOM Data