3D Medical Printing: A Tool Against Tongue Cancer
Surgery would be required, and because the placement of the tumor made it difficult to isolate, it looked like doctors would have to remove a significant portion of the patient’s tongue.
Luckily for the patient, however, the surgical team called in a medical 3D printing company dedicated to the development of advanced 3D printed surgical guides, patient-specific implants and prosthetics. Using the MRI scan, a 3D model of the patient’s tongue was created. The software, which allows editing of MRI scan data, enabled them to digitally separate the tumor from the tongue and print them in two different colors, using a flexible material to mimic the organ’s properties.
The detailed, compound model allowed the surgeons to see the entire tumor and how it affected the tongue; they would have the printed model beside them as they operated to guide them so that they could ensure the removal of the full tumor. Once the cancer had been removed, a plastic surgery team carefully reconstructed the patient’s tongue from thigh muscles, using the 3D printed model as a template for optimal cosmetic and functional results.
“As 3D printing continues to be utilized for a vast range of purposes within different fields of medicine—both for model-building and for printing replacement body parts—it will become more crucial than ever to ensure the quality of the end-product,” says Mark J. Cola, President and CEO of Sigma Labs, Inc. “New technology can ensure that engineers are able to implement quality control at every stage of the manufacturing process.”
Sigma Labs has developed a proprietary, patent-protected, quality assurance software suite called PrintRite3D® that transforms the 3D printing process. In contrast to traditional quality assurance that is performed after-the-fact, PrintRite3D works in real-time to assist quality inspectors in sorting acceptable from suspect components.
The PrintRite3D® suite benefits medical device companies that are 3D-printing metal parts in three aspects. The first involves metallurgy: in addition to optimizing the structure/property/parameter qualities of metal parts, Sigma Labs’ software allows engineers to assess each part’s microstructure—scanning and collecting data on potential weaknesses (like “pores” in the metal). The second benefit involves geometry: the software helps capture images of every layer of metal as it is being incorporated into the part; this data, available digitally, gives inspectors the ability to detect any distortion as parts are made and adjust the machine accordingly in real-time. Finally, the software enhances a company’s productivity by collecting Big Data regarding the performance of multiple 3D printers at multiple locations into a single database.
With a core facility in Santa Fe, NM, Sigma Labs offers clients a comprehensive one-stop shop for 3D metal printing and process engineering; alternately, Sigma Labs can offer its suite to clients at their own facilities.
“The well-being of a diverse patient population rides on the quality of 3D printed parts, and the implementation of quality assurance is a guard against any flaws in the process,” adds Cola.