Metal ribs made in Spain

A Spanish cancer patient has received a 3D printed titanium sternum and rib cage designed and manufactured right here in Australia, at our Melbourne-based 3D printing facility in Melbourne.

Suffering from a chest wall sarcoma (a type of cancerous tumour that grows, in this instance, around the rib cage), the 54 year old man needed his sternum and a portion of his rib cage replaced. This part of the chest is notoriously tricky to recreate with prosthetics, due to the complex geometry and design required for each patient. So the patient’s surgical team determined that a fully customisable 3D printed sternum and rib cage was the best option.

That’s when they turned to Melbourne-based medical device company Anatomics, who designed and manufactured the implant utilising our 3D printing facility, Lab 22.

The news was announced by Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane today. And the news is good, 12 days after the surgery the patient was discharged and has recovered well.

This isn’t the first time surgeons have turned the human body into a titanium masterpiece. Thoracic surgeons typically use flat and plate implants for the chest. However, these can come loose over time and increase the risk of complications. The patient’s surgical team at the Salamanca University Hospital thought a fully customised 3D printed implant could replicate the intricate structures of the sternum and ribs, providing a safer option for the patient.

Using high resolution CT data, the Anatomics team was able to create a 3D reconstruction of the chest wall and tumour, allowing the surgeons to plan and accurately define resection margins. We were then called on to print the sternum and rib cage at Lab 22.

As you could imagine, the 3D printer at Officeworks wasn’t quite up to this challenge. Instead, we relied on our $1.3 million Arcam printer to build up the implant layer-by-layer with its electron beam, resulting in a brand new implant which was promptly couriered to Spain.

This video explains how it all works.

The advantage of 3D printing is its rapid prototyping. When you’re waiting for life-saving surgery this is the definitely the order of the day.

We are no strangers to biomedical applications of 3D printing: in the past we have used our know-how to create devices like the 3D printed heel-bone, or the 3D printed mouth-guard for sleep apnoea suffers.

When it comes to using 3D printing for biomedical applications, it seems that we are just scratching the surface of what’s possible. So, we’re keen to partner with biomedical manufacturers to see how we can help solve more unique medical challenges.


Premium card

Ladies & gentlemen, the J.P.Morgan Palladium Card:

It’s got your name laser-etched into it, rather than printed on those mere bourgeois plastic cards in raised lettering. It’s made out of 23-kt gold and palladium, which is some rare expensive metal. Depending on how commodity prices are doing on a given day, it may be worth more than $1,000 or so if you just melted it down and sold off the metal in it–which is more than the annual fee itself ($595, or a small rounding error on a Palladium card-holder’s monthly wine club invoice). The card is made out of metal to make it durable, heavy, attractive, and noticeable: when dropped upon a silver platter, it makes a distinctive “ping!” sound.

It’s reported that in order to be invited to apply for the Palladium card, you must have an account with JPMorgan’s private bank, with net assets of at least $25 million, ranking you well above just the 1%. There are thought to be fewer than 5,000 of these little doodads floating around.