3D printing gives cancer survivor a new jaw

New technology makes prosthetics lighter and easier to wear

New technology is allowing lightweight prosthetics be made by 3D printing.

The University of Indiana has worked with cancer survivor Shirley Anderson on building a prosthetic jaw for him after he lost his after treatment for tongue cancer. Conventional prosthetics were too heavy and bulky to be worn around the jaw, so the university worked with Anderson on using their new technology of 3D printing the part.

3D printing works by having a large printer use plastic instead of ink, layering it up into 3D objects. The last few years has seen huge leaps in the advancement of 3D printing, coming from making small models to now having advance scientific uses.

This case shows how 3D printing is moving more and more into advanced and interesting uses. The design of Anderson's prosthesis was made after his face was digitally scanned. That scan was then used to start to craft the prosthesis in digital sculpting software Zbrush. After the design was finalised, the jaw was printed out on a desktop-grade 3D printer from Formlabs.

The final piece looks more natural than a conventional prosthesis, as the 3D printing method allowed for more realistic curves and colouring.

Mr Anderson's new jaw is leading the way in 3D printed prosthetics, with other medical facilities following the University of Indiana's lead.