Using leading laser manufacturing techniques, doctors and metal experts were able to build up layers of titanium to form a custom jawbone implant for an 83-year-old woman. This has been labelled the world’s first “3D printer-created jaw”. The metal jawbone was then inserted into her lower jaw, replacing a large section of bone that was destroyed by a chronic infection.
This process is still in its infancy but allows scientists the scope to devise ways to produce whole organs, which are either “printed” by sandwiching layer after layer of living cells on top of each other or created by building scaffolds for cells to grow on.
3D printing involves using computers to knit together layers or particles of materials to form a new 3D structure. This process is called “selective laser melting”. During the process, heat-producing lasers are focussed on a bed of metal powder so that particles are precision-fused to form a 3D structure