3D printing skin!



L’Oreal to start 3D printing skin

French cosmetics firm L’Oreal is teaming up with bio-engineering start-up Organovo to 3D-print human skin.

It said the printed skin would be used in product tests.

Organovo has already made headlines with claims that it can 3D-print a human liver but this is its first tie-up with the cosmetics industry.

Experts said the science might be legitimate but questioned why a beauty firm would want to print skin.

L’Oreal currently grows skin samples from tissues donated by plastic surgery patients. It produces more than 100,000, 0.5 sq cm skin samples per year and grows nine varieties across all ages and ethnicities.

Its statement explaining the advantage of printing skin, offered little detail: “Our partnership will not only bring about new advanced in vitro methods for evaluating product safety and performance, but the potential for where this new field of technology and research can take us is boundless.”

A scientist with skin cells

It also gave no timeframe for when printed samples would be available, saying it was in “early stage research”.

Experts were divided about the plans.

“I think the science behind it – using 3D printing methods with human cells – sounds plausible,” said Adam Friedmann, a consultant dermatologist at the Harley Street dermatology clinic.

“I can understand why you would do it for severe burns or trauma but I have no idea what the cosmetic industry will do with it,” he added.

3D-printed livers

The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine has pioneered the field of laboratory-grown and printed organs.

It prints human cells in hydrogel-based scaffolds. The lab-engineered organs are placed on a 2in (5cm) chip and linked together with a blood substitute which keeps the cells alive.

Organovo uses a slightly different method, which allows for the direct assembly of 3D tissues without the need for a scaffold.

It is one of the first companies to offer commercially available 3D-printed human organs.

Last year, it announced that its 3D-printed liver tissue was commercially available, although some experts were cautious about what it had achieved.

“It was unclear how liver-like the liver structures were,” said Alan Faulkner-Jones, a bioengineering research scientist at Heriot Watt university.

Printing skin could be a different proposition, he thinks.

“Skin is quite easy to print because it is a layered structure,” he told the BBC.

“The advantages for the cosmetics industry would be that it doesn’t have to test products on animals and will get a better response from human skin.”

But printed skin has more value in a medical scenario, he thinks.

“It would be a great thing to have stores of spare skins for burn victims.”




Relief through 3D printing



3D technology is nothing new to medicine. For years, physicians have utilized ‘computerized tomography,’ known as CT scans, to create three-dimensional images of the human body. But now, 3D technology is moving being diagnosis to actual treatment through the use of 3D printing. And for patients suffering from the rare condition, tracheobronchomalacia, 3D printers can mean the difference between life and death, or should I say, life and breath.

Patients with tracheobronchomalacia (TBM) are born with weak tracheas, that all-important passageway that funnels air to the lungs. The condition affects about one in 2,000 children and in extreme cases, the trachea collapses. As you can imagine, the prognosis for such patients is grim. Such was the case for Kaiba Gionfriddo, a beautiful boy born with brown curls, matching eyes, and the unfortunate condition, TBM.

Fortunately for Kaiba, researchers from CS Mott Children’s Hospital, located on the sprawling campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, received approval to try out a new technology – 3D printing – to construct a splint that would support his weakened trachea until a time when it could support itself. They did this by customizing a flexible splint that fit around Kaiba’s trachea, providing support as he breathed, coughed, and sneezed. And most importantly, the devise was constructed of biomaterials that flexed to accommodate the rapid growth of an infant, and it will even eventually be resorbed by his body.

Kaiba was only three months old when the device was implanted. He was one of three infants suffering from severe TBM to be fitted with the flexible splints. Dr. Glenn Green, an Associate Professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Michigan, led Kaiba’s case and is part of the team whose ground breaking technology appears in this month’s issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine.

And tracheal splints are just the tip of the iceberg, as researchers continue to explore a growing partnership between 3D technology and medicine. The actual and potential uses of 3D printing in medicine include building customized prosthetics and implants, pharmaceutical research and drug delivery, and the fabrication of tissues and organs. As for the tracheal splints, they can be designed to fit the unique dimensions of each patient, constructed of biomaterials that accommodate growth and dissolve over time, and can even be produced onsite using 3D printing wherever patients in need may be. The medical applications of 3D printing are limitless.

Kaiba is now a healthy, thriving three-year-old. His mom recently summed up their experience saying that “It was scary knowing he was the first child to ever have this procedure, but it was our only choice and it saved his life.”


May 03, 2015 05:30 PM EDT

Help for the people without limbs

How can 3D printing help those with paralyzed limbs?

On this page we’ve shown you many different forms of prosthesis created thanks to 3D printing that has changed the lives of many people with missing limbs.

Now take a look at a project which, using 3D printing, can help people with paralysis gain control over their affected limbs again 🙂

We have seen many extremely helpful 3D printed prosthetic hands and arms come to fruition over the past two years. Thanks to groups like e-NABLE and the Robohand Project, there are hundreds of people who now have gained use of both of their hands. The incredible thing about 3D printing is that it allows for the fabrication of completely custom devices, at costs of under $50. Traditional prosthesis cost up to 10,000 times this price, and many of these expensive devices don’t even function as well as their cheaper, home-fabricated counterparts.

3D printed prosthetic hands have been a life saver for individuals (mainly children) who have been born with missing hands, or partial hands. These devices allow them to gain use of an appendage that they never had the ability to use before.  With this said, what about those individuals who have their entire arms and hands intact, but for one reason or another don’t have the ability to move them?

There are many medical issues that can cause paralysis of a limb and/or appendage. They range from muscular dystrophy, to arthritis, strokes, nerve damage, and in this particular case a child who was forced to have a hemispherectomy (removal of half of their brain). Devices to help aid these people are not all that common, and if one were to get their hands on such a device, it could cost upwards of $50,000.

Elizabeth Jackson Models the Airy Arm (image source: Brain Recovery Project)

This is where one young lady, named Elizabeth Jackson comes to the rescue, thanks in part to 3D printing technology. Jackson, a member of e-NABLE, and a student of e-NABLE’s “leader”, Jon Schull at RIT(Rochester Institute of Technology), decided that something needed to be created for those without functioning arms/hands. Building on previous work by fellow e-NABLErs Ivan Owen (University of Washington Bothell) and Jean Peck (Creighton University, Omaha), Jackson came up with what she calls the “Airy Arm”.

“The Airy Arm is an exoskeletal device that assists individuals with intact but non functioning hands,” Elizabeth Jackson tells 3DPrint.com. “For example, the child that this was designed for had half of his brain removed which resulted in the paralysis of his wrist and hand. No electric components are used, and the hand is instead driven by the user’s own controlled movement of the elbow.”

The device works with cables that run over and under the fingers and then attach to the elbow. The hinge, located on the elbow, pulls on the cables under the finger and then forces the hand to close, as the elbow bends. When the elbow is straightened, the inside of the elbow pulls the strings located on the back of the fingers, thus opening the hand. This means that when the user reaches for an object, the strings pull the fingers open, and when the user pulls that object back toward his/her body, the fingers are forced to close. A double hinge on the elbow allows the user to have free movement without any interference or irritation of the skin. The underside of the fingers are strung with elastic, which enables the user to hold objects of different sizes, quite comfortably and confidently.

“The frame of the Airy Arm is 3D printed flat from a plastic called PLA (polylactic acid), and is then dipped in hot water and molded to the user’s hand and arm in order to form a comfortable fit that is flexible and lightweight,” Jackson told us. “Printing the pieces flat also decreases the print time and the amount of material used. This device would be useful in a variety of situations, including partial paralysis, stroke victims, and individuals with arthritis or muscular dystrophy.”

Recently at a large e-NABLE event, Jackson had the opportunity to show this device off to the innovators, medical personnel, and fellow e-NABLE members on hand. “People were very excited about the concept,” explained Jackson. “It is revolutionary, and can help so many more people than I ever anticipated. It has been getting very little media attention, as it is still a prototype, but somehow people still heard about it and were excited to actually see it in person.”

There is so much potential for devices like this. Just imagine how many people would love to have such an apparatus enabling them to once again gain use of both hands. Jackson will be working for the Brain Recovery Project, starting in January, in an attempt to create a final design for this device, and get it working for several patients who they work with. The Brain Recovery Project works with children who have experienced severe epilepsy, and were required to have half of their brain either removed or disabled. These children become paralyzed on the opposite side of the body that their brain was removed from, and devices like what Jackson has come up with can help them regain function once again.


If you are interested in donating to the Brain Recovery Project, you can do so on their website.

If all goes as planned, then perhaps one day soon, anyone will be able to print their own Airy Arm for personal use, or for use by family and friends.  This is why 3D printing is such a great tool.  It allows for open source designs that are able to be fabricated via downloadable files.

What do you think? Will this device provide as much of an aid to users as some of the 3D printed prosthetic hands we have seen? Discuss in the Airy Arm forum thread on 3DPB.com.

by  | OCTOBER 9, 2014

3D printing revolutionizing medicine

How is 3D printing revolutionizing medicine?

Read our latest blog post to find out!


Today we’re taking a look at the promising implications 3D printing has for the medical industry.

From bones healing faster to amputees walking again, 3D printing’s healing hand is not going unnoticed. Confused about how new-age printers can help patients?

Read on and we’ll explain all about it.

The Evolution of the Plaster Cast
The Cortex Cast

2013 saw the introduction of the ‘Cortex Cast’, a stylish, ventilated 3D printable cast invented by University of Wellington graduate Jake Evill.

Built in 2 or more pieces and then adjoined, the patients’ limbs can be scanned and turned into a 3D model, allowing for an accurate fit.

Currently, printers may take hours to churn out a complete plastic cast, but we can expect this time to be reduced drastically as efficiency increases in the coming years.

This experimental product will cater to individuals varying limb sizes, and in the future can be printed on site, in a hospital or clinic. The smile on a patient’s face will serve as proof of witnessing a successful marriage between medicine and technology.

Available in various colors, printable casts will grow to symbolize 3D printing’s low-key invasion into the fashion world. Expect Malta 3D Printing to blog about this shortly!

The Osteoid

A 3D printable cast known as the ‘Osteoid’ is helping to heal bones up to 80% faster. Created by Turkish design graduate Deniz Karasahin, the cast’s plastic, aerated structure allows for an ultrasound device to be attached to it – resulting in improved treatment for patients.

Bulkiness, itchiness and discomfort associated with plaster casts will become a thing of the past thanks to the Osteoid’s lattice pattern and lightweight build.

This promising invention won the ‘A’Design Award in 3D Printed Forms and Products Design in 2013. Its full name is the ‘Osteoid Medical Cast, Attachable Bone Stimulator’, but we prefer the ‘Osteoid.’
The wires attached to the plastic frame (see picture above) allow for the healing pulse to be sent to the desired area, sending ultrasound waves at the touch of a button.

With a single 20 minute daily session, the Osteoid can potentially improve healing rates by up to 80% in non-union fractures, and up to 38% in other fractures.

The Osteoid is made out of ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), a popular thermoplastic with 3D printing vendors, household goods and food containers. While it may seem like a simple design, the precise location of each air space is algorithmically calculated, and the locking mechanism (see picture below) may vary in location from case to case.

Both the aforementioned models are more expensive than present day remedies, but offer localized healing, water-resistance, and a higher standard of environmental sustainability and aesthetics.

We can only imagine a little girl with a broken hand looking up at a doctor, smiling as she tries on her cast in her favourite colour. Small details can go a long way!
Once 3D printing successfully infiltrates hospitals worldwide, expect to see a myriad of patients with casts in blue, red, yellow green and more!

3D Printable Prosthetics

According to statistics collected in 2008, there are approximately10 million people across the world living with amputations (arm, elbow, shoulder, leg, knee etc.).

Unfortunately, only a select few can even afford prosthetic limbs, as a large percentage of amputees live in developing countries.

Skeptical about 3D printing’s global influence? Well, it’s a good thing Malta 3D Printing‘s here.

Miracles are already happening throughout the 3D printing world. Patrice Johnson, using a $500,000 3D printer owned by Ex-One, began printing prosthetic arms and lending a helping hand to people in less fortunate parts of the world.
“Right on the border of Burma and Thailand, there are landmines like you wouldn’t believe,” Johnson said in an interview with The Atlantic.

Bravely venturing to Burma equipped with two 3D printed prosthetic arms, Johnson donated the artificial limbs and had the two lucky patients feeling comfortable within half an hour.

It’s not all blue skies, however, as Johnson points out that the main issue with 3D printed limbs lies in the attachment.  It must successfully connect to both soft tissue and bone without damaging either, whilst providing an adequate range of motion for the patient.

Luckily, one of 3D printing’s many strengths can solve this problem. Due to the extreme level of detail 3D scanners and printers can achieve, a full scan of a patient’s intact limb would result in a precise 3D replica – one that post-print would be expected to be an exact fit on the damaged limb.

A prime example of an artificial 3D printed limb is the ‘Jaipurknee’. Pictured in the image above, the Jaipurknee claims to be one-tenth the cost of a traditional polycentric knee joint and is built to last between 3-5 years.

With 3D printers firing on all cylinders across the globe, the number of amputees could be drastically reduced within the coming years, as people gain access to cheaper, more efficient means of limb replacement.
The team behind Malta 3D Printing have nothing but respect for these life-changing inventions.

by  | 5 July 2014

3D printed replica of tumour

A team of Spanish surgeons 3D printed an exact replica of a 5-year old’s tumour so that they could practice removing it, after having failed to remove the real thing twice. The third procedure was a success and they now expect the boy to make a full recovery without further operations.

The hospital is so impressed with this use of 3D printing to help simulate complicated procedures that two new models have already been commissioned for patients.


A practice surgical procedure on a 3D-printed tumor has helped surgeons successfully remove the tricky real one from a 5-year-old boy in Spain.

The boy was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a common form of cancer in children that typically occurs around the stomach. Because of the locations of these types of tumors, surgery to remove them requires copious skill to not slice an artery and put the patient’s life in danger. After two unsuccessful attempts to remove the child’s tumor, it appeared inoperable.

“We tried the surgery twice but we failed because we could not access,” head surgeon Jaume Mora said at a press conference Wednesday. “Instead of surrendering, we tried to find a solution.”

Mora and his team at the Hospital Sant Joan de Deu in Barcelona turned to the CIM Foundation at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia to create a 3D-printed replica of the boy’s tumor so they could perfect their technique ahead of the surgery.

The team used a multi-material 3D printer to print hardened arteries and organs surrounding a translucent, soft resin so they could practice removing the tumor without damaging the boy’s innards. They also built a tumor-free replica of the child’s insides to see what he should look like once the cancer had been removed.

After undertaking a practice run a week and a half before the scheduled surgery, the surgeons successfully removed the tumor from the boy’s body. And they’re happy to report that they expect him to fully recover without the need for additional surgeries. In fact, the team and the hospital were so impressed with how the procedure went, they’ve commissioned 3D-printed models for two other patients.

This case represents one of the first times a personalized, 3D-printed organ has been used to successfully simulate a surgery, though it almost certainly won’t be the last. And it’s once again excitingto see that technology commonly used to print jewelry, figurines, and iPhone cases can also help medical professionals save lives.


by | July 3, 20141:39 PM PDT