Eastman Dental Institute


Developing 3D Printing for Custom-fit Maxillofacial Implants

Professor Jonathan Knowles

Although 3D printing in health care is still in its infancy - we have already seen enormous advances in its use in surgical planning, reconstructive surgery; printing blood vessels, bone, tissue and organs.

The benefits of 3D printing include the quick production of prototypes, the lower costs of manufacturing and the ability to create personalised, implants for individual patients who have previously had to rely on standard shapes and sizes.

This project aims to utilise materials developed at the Eastman Dental Institute and optimise them for 3D printing to allow custom fit hard tissue implants to be printed on demand.

The work is focussing on two main areas:

1. the optimisation of the composite materials, which will require their synthesis and characterisation to make them suitable for extrusion 
2.  the integration of the optimised composite into a 3D printing system. 

Activities and next steps

We have now developed a very high strength bioactive material, which is ready to bae taken to the next stage of development via biological testing. We are now looking at modifying the synthesis to make the material set much quicker and also moving to a major phase of in vivo assessment prior to preclinical testing. 

This material has potential to be used in much wider applications in maxillofacial surgery as well as orthopaedic problems.