In 2014, 3D printing reached new heights when surgeons and medical practitioners started to use 3D-printed titanium body implants in their procedures. These implants created from titanium alloys have been curing chronic pain and replacing body parts, from jaws to vertebrae, and even heels.
Aside from its time and money-saving effects, titanium 3D printed implants do save lives, and humans aren’t the only ones benefiting from it. This medical innovation is now being experienced by animals, as they are given second chances in life with this breakthrough technology.
Man’s best bet for his best friend
Many agree that dogs are a man’s best friend. Having a dog means caring for your pet as much as one can, especially if they are in pain.
According to a post by 3dprint.com, over 10,000 dogs suffering from cruciate ligament conditions were cured by titanium implants. Cruciate ligament is an ailment affecting most dog breeds and is caused by trauma, genetic issues, and deterioration from old age. Cruciate ligaments mostly plague larger dog breeds and show signs of pain, swelling, and lack of mobility.
A process called 3D printed TTA Rapid Implant (Tibial Tuberosity Advancement) allows veterinarians to help dogs recover from this condition. Pioneered by Rita Leibinger Medical with the help of 3D Systems, a manufacturer of state-of-the-art 3D printers, the titanium implant has helped strengthen the joints and ligaments of 10,000 dogs. The process has revitalized the bone structures of these dogs and allow them to enjoy their time at dog parks, or playing with their human companions.
3D Systems digitally designed and printed the titanium implant through direct metal 3D printing. The implant is made with an intricate yet open structure, allowing a faster rapid bone ingrowths for better results. Inserted into the dog’s lower limb, 3D Systems described the implant’s purpose to reorganize mechanical forces of the bones to create dynamic knee stability “without the need to repair or replace damaged ligament.”
A surgical procedure for the insertion of the implant has been perfected by Dr. Yves Samoy from Belgium’s Ghent University and the implant is currently at patent pending. Dogs are given anesthesia for the entire duration of the process and they have less chance of getting an infection compared to traditional processes for operating cruciate ligament. Rita Leibinger, owner and founder of Rita Leibinger Medical, said that positive reviews from pet owners are “overwhelming.”
“It is heartbreaking to see your dog in so much pain that he or she can barely walk. With this implant, we experienced faster, more successful surgery and a faster recovery period. It is gratifying to see progress like this improve the lives of these animals and their families,” said Leibinger in a post.
3D printed implants make a splashy history
Dogs aren’t the only ones with improved vitality benefits from titanium implants. According to a separate report, a sea turtle from Turkey was given a titanium 3D printed jaw thanks to the Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Center at Pamukkale University (PAU).
A loggerhead sea turtle named AKUT3 had significant damage on its lower and upper jaws, causing problems in feeding itself properly in the wild. PAU’s Sea Dr. Yakup Kaska, the Center’s director, decided that the turtle had a bigger chance of survival if a titanium implant will help in reconstructing its jaws.
With the help of BTech innovation, a company known for 3D technology and its application for medicine, the procedure started with designing the implants based on CT scans of the turtle. BTech used a technology called Mimics Innovation Suite developed by Materialise to create a 3D model, which was then taken to a 3D printing facility to print the implants in titanium.
The operation was a success and became the first case in the world where 3D printed titanium implants were used in a sea turtle. AKUT3’s case is especially pleasing to animal advocates, since four of the seven species of sea turtles are “endangered” or “critically endangered.”
3D printing and titanium provide a new kind of hope to endangered species, and animals as these improve the quality of their lives. Because of titanium’s new application, there will be a bigger demand for the metals. Developing mines around the world are ensuring the constant supply of titanium including Chile’s White Mountain Titanium Corporation (OTCQB: WMTM), which is expected to yield 112 million tons of high-grade rutile. The rutile will be sold to titanium manufacturers, including those who make titanium medical implants.
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