A Spanish cancer patient has a new, customised titanium sternum and ribcage, thanks in part to a collaboration between the CSIRO and a Melbourne medical device company.
Melbourne-based company Anatomics used the CSIRO's 3D printing facility, Lab 22, to create the implant.
The federal science and industry minister, Ian Macfarlane, revealed details of the project today.
The 54-year-old patient, who suffered from a chest wall sarcoma that meant his sternum and part of his ribcage needed to be replaced, is recovering well and has been discharged, the CSIRO said.
"We thought, maybe we could create a new type of implant that we could fully customise to replicate the intricate structures of the sternum and ribs,” said Dr José Aranda from Spain's Salamanca University Hospital.
"We wanted to provide a safer option for our patient, and improve their recovery post-surgery," Aranda said in a statement.
The titanium implant was printed using $1.3 million Arcam 3D printer at Lab 22.
"The printer works by directing an electron beam at a bed of titanium powder in order to melt it," said the CSIRO's Alex Kingsbury.
"This process is then repeated, building the product up layer-by-layer until you have a complete implant."
"We wanted to 3D print the implant from titanium because of [the sternum and ribcage's] complex geometry and design," said Anatomics CEO Andrew Batty.
Anatomics was responsible for designing the implant.
"While titanium implants have previously been used in chest surgery, designs have not considered the issues surrounding long term fixation," Batty said.
"Flat and plate implants rely on screws for rigid fixation that may come loose over time. This can increase the risk of complications and the possibility of reoperation."
The organisation said that Lab 22 would make expensive equipment available to small and medium businesses that would otherwise be unable to afford it.
The healthcare sector has been the site of significant innovation driven by 3D printing.