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Medicine Printer United Kingdom

3D Printed Bone Models Cut Cost of Surgery Operations 88

Tasha26 writes "A trainee surgeon, Mark Frame, has figured out how to save U.K.'s NHS thousands of pounds by taking advantage of 3D-printer technology. Success in orthopedic operations relies on surgeons having an accurate 3D model of the area where the operation will take place. Such models take time to produce and cost up to £1200 ($1915). Mark, a self-confessed 'technology geek,' used open source OsiriX software to convert CT scans into files which are readable by the 3D printers at Shapeways, a company in the Netherlands. Within a week they produced and delivered the first plastic 3D model of a child's forearm at a cost of £77 ($123). Mark has written a free guide so that other surgeons can make their own bones, which is being considered for publication by the World Journal of Science and Technology."
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3D Printed Bone Models Cut Cost of Surgery Operations

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  • Nice! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spiffmastercow ( 1001386 ) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @11:20AM (#37935154)
    Side note -- if this happened in the US, he would have kept the source closed, founded a company, charged extortionary prices, and the entire medical profession would be worse off at his expense.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ArhcAngel ( 247594 )
      Wait...In two years Apple will come out with the iBone (yes I went there) claim it as revolutionary and sue this guy for all he's worth.
      • Coincidentally, a week later Nintendo announces their new Wii Bone, targeted at the adult entertainment market. Maybe they can resurrect the FuFme product too. :)

      • we're about two years from the first lawsuits against these printing service for IP violations. Let's say you break a plastic bracket on your ten-year old car and instead of paying say $80 for one from the dealer, you have one reproduced for half that. Oh, There Will Be Blood. Once these 'printing houses' are shut down, the machines themselves will be impossibly expensive as they will have a five-figure cost added on for licensing fees. Once again, the blood-sucking corporations will make sure the futur
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So what if it were kept closed source? I would have still undoubtedly been cheaper than what they were using, saving money, however much.

      People do have the right to make money, based on a new creative idea - its called innovation. If we don't have any incentive to innovate (read money), it's likely that much innovation would stagnate. If I were this guy, I'd be marketing my own kit to hospitals everywhere, at say 50% of the going rate - enough to make them buy it, while making money for myself at the sam

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Open source != free as in beer.
        Making money != closed source.

        This is why the "open source" movement bothers RMS so much. It has totally derailed the message.
        Free software is about always being able and legally permitted to fix and improve the software, not just for yourself, but for everyone.
        The incentives are irrelevent. If you want to do it to make money, cool. If you want to do it to improve the world, cool.
        The point of free software is that you get to do it, whatever your motivation--and then you don't

      • I'm innovating all the time. I have a shit-ton of ideas sitting around that I'm tinkering on that probably won't make me a single penny, but are useful devices. Odds are I'll use open source to make them available to the world. If I can open source 3d models of product bodies as well I'll do it.
      • Re:Nice! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by morgauxo ( 974071 ) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @01:30PM (#37937404)
        He took CT scans (already existed)
        Fed them through an open source program (already existed)
        And sent them to a 3D printer (already existed)

        If I understand the paytard philosophy, this is innovative enough that he should get a government supported monopoly?
        And rather than limiting the benefit patients can receive from this technology to only as many patients as his new startup can handle and driving up the price because supply would be way less than demand and competition nil this is supposed to somehow foster continued innovation?

        F'ng PayTards, I hope one day they see the medicines and treatments they need single sourced and priced out of reach.
    • Don't worry, any company wanting to do it will need FDA approval for their implementation and then the price will get close to that.

      And then if insurance covers it they'll jack up the price further, and there won't be any savings at all.

      • Re:FDA approval (Score:4, Informative)

        by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @12:36PM (#37936414)
        I doubt you need FDA approval for something which just prints out a model of a scan. The patient isn't going to have the part shoved back in them, it's a surgeons tool. Though I can see that if it were used as the basis of producing parts that went back into a patient, e.g. a plate, band or whatever that it might become expensive. More likely they just want something they can hold, turn around, poke, practice with etc.
    • In the U.S., I don't think he'd even be allowed to do this without a decade of red tape from the Federal Department of Government. So he would definitely need some way to extract a lot of money to support all the regulation. Never mind getting sued into oblivion by ambulance chasing personal injury lawyers.

      It wouldn't happen like this in the U.S., but it's not the market in the way. It's the government.
      • by PRMan ( 959735 )
        If he were smart, he'd start marketing it in South America and Asia, where they don't have as much red tape.
      • We should just eliminate the FDA entirely. Then we can save a lot of money because people will just attempt to regrow their bones by drinking oil from snakes as there will be no agency to stop anyone from marketing all medical techniques as 100% proven to work. The free market always works best!

    • Supply and Demand. It wouldn't be sold for extortionary prices, because not enough people would buy it. Having it Open Source means the medical profession will not widely use it, Because a fault would be on the implementer of the technology. Aka The poor slob who set it up from the instructions. So if a patient dies or is crippled from this technology then the implementer gets in a lot of trouble. The company offers more then just the device, it offers protection, if there is a problem the company takes

    • I know a guy in Atlanta that's been working on doing exactly this with a Makerbot. And all that stuff is open source, from mechanical plans to software.

  • by Xaide ( 1015779 )
    Pretty soon here we'll be able to print the fifth element from dna found in a robot bug glove.
  • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @11:27AM (#37935304)

    He is supposed to patent it and charge up to £1999 for each model.

  • How do you like this "trinket?"

    • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @11:41AM (#37935548)

      This just demonstrates the one niche that 3D printing is good at. We have been using 3D printing for prototyping for years, and they work great for that. You get an object that is good enough for a one-off prototype without the expense of casting or milling. But they are worthless for producing anything that needs to last, or have any sort of structural strength.

      "Haters" don't hate 3D printing for what it is good for, they hate the hype surrounding it saying it will revolutionize manufacturing and will quickly improve to the point where home users can make things as good as professional manufacturing can. That's just not going to happen.

      • by ciderbrew ( 1860166 ) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @12:08PM (#37935946)

        That's just not going to happen.

        People want to be able to print objects. There is a want and a need. To say it isn't going to happen in the next X years is daft.
        They just need to change the ink. I'm looking forward to have a Graphene printer on my desk in the next 20years.

        • "People want to be able to print objects. There is a want and a need."

          Exactly, as an old fart, my first color printer an HP500C did cost over a thousand bucks here when it came out.
          I paid >15000$ for my first PostScript printer >25 years ago.
          I'd better not tell you what the color dye-sub printer did cost when it came out.

          As first models they all sucked as much as the 3d printers do, according to some people here.

          Give it some time!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by adamgundy ( 836997 )

        I have a counterpoint: []

        this is a duct for the J2-X rocket engine, produced using Direct Metal Laser Sintering (3D printed metal, in other words). it has to operate at insane temperatures and pressures... and it does, perfectly.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          "Direct Metal Laser Sintering (3D printed metal, in other words)"

          Oh fuck off. THIS is why I hate the whole "3D printing" fad. You can't just go around and pick and choose some incredible industrial process that does one thing that has absolutely no bearing on what people need at home, and call it "3D printing" "in other words". That's just insanely retarded. It's intellectually dishonest, it does a huge disservice to both the legit 3D printing people and the sintering process. And it provides free publicity

          • by vadim_t ( 324782 )

            What incredible industrial process? It's similar to a beefy laser printer, and there are machines for it that are the size of a fridge. It may not be a home sized printer just yet, but by no means an entire industrial production line either.

  • My hat is off to this guy! (All I've done with Osiris-X is look at pretty pictures).

    I was kinda hoping that this meant the printer would make the actual replacement part but I guess that's a problem of what kinds of material the printer can use and not of his ingenuity. Unfortunately it'll probably be a while until a human bone replacement can be printed out on a hobbyist printer.

    Still great! Nothing beats an actual 3D physical model for per-visualization.

  • ...I could totally see this failing due to privacy legislature relating to patient records.

    I guess hospitals should start buying 3D-printers then?

    • The question is when these machines become reliable and affordable enough for general purchase. Additional potential early adopters:

      - car dealerships for use in their service department (print a replacement part rather than waiting on delivery of it)
      - architects (the current project on _This Old House_ has prominently featured models of the house AIUI, made by the homeowner's company Z Corporation)
      - jewelers (print off a 3D model in wax for lost wax casting)


      • Well, two problems with the first potential.

        Dealerships buy parts distributed by the manufacturer. Most of the price difference between a dealer part, and a quality aftermarket part is the name stamped on the box. And, of course, the price is reflected to the consumer.

        The other problem is, 3d printing isn't generally good for making anything with strength. They could make something that looks exactly like what you need, but they aren't going to print a strong

        • Open source cars. :-)
        • "show me a functional 3d printed spring"

          Here's a video of one.

          Also, google for " 3d printed spring" and you'll get >5000 hits.

          • You're kidding, right?

            I was referencing a standard radiator cap. A high temperature plastic cap, with spring steel, to keep roughly 200 degree water under at least 15psi, but excessive pressure is allowed to push the seal up to allow the release of potentially catastrophic pressure.

            And you show me a plastic toy?

            Show me a printer that could make such a device. It's not rocket science to make one. It's just impossible with any current 3d printers.

    • They're pretty cheap when talking in terms of a hospital budget.. I think we're talking in terms of low thousands of pounds. The 3D print on demand companies are probably laughing all the way to the bank at the moment, and I have no problem with that. They're providing a service that people are willing to pay for, and offering it much cheaper than the alternatives.
    • I could totally see this failing due to privacy legislature relating to patient records.

      That only controls how the hospital and their associates handle the documents. I, however, can do whatever I please with my patient records including posting them up on the internet for all to see or sending a 3D MRI model of, let's say my crazily warped femur, to a rapid prototyping shop to have them produce it.

  • That just means the hospital will charge you 150,000 for the surgery instead of 152,000. Very little difference to the american consumer.
    • "Very little difference to the american consumer."

      Fly overseas and get the work done there. Medical "tourism" is becoming more and more common as the price of an airline flight is a trifle compared to inflated US medical costs.

  • After recently having my arm broke in more places than they could count in the xray and then rebuilt with plates and screws I think this is really cool.
    it's another option! another tool.

    I'm lucky that I got to keep my arm but it could have been the other way around.

    Just my .020001 USD from having been there.

  • by dreemernj ( 859414 ) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @12:01PM (#37935856) Homepage Journal
    The company that was selling the replicas for $1900 a piece will probably be queuing up lawyers and paid "experts" very soon to give extremely good reason why the government should pass a law making this illegal.

    I don't know how they'll justify it, but what difference does that make? They'll find a way to justify it no matter what.
    • by mzs ( 595629 )

      Might actually be OsiriX themselves, they charge $600 per seat, $600 every year for support and updates. The free version is not supposed to be used clinically.

  • by Libertarian001 ( 453712 ) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @12:03PM (#37935876)

    Seriously, Shapeways doesn't do anything different from any other 3d-print bureau, except charge a little less for significantly worse service and products run at lower resolutions. They use the same 3d printers that are available all over the place.

    The story here is that a 3d printer was used to make a prosthetic bone for a patient. That's freaking cool.

    • The story here is that a 3d printer was used to make a prosthetic bone for a patient. That's freaking cool.

      That would be very cool, but it isn't what happened. They're using the 3d printer to make a model so that they can visualize and interact with a model of the bones before performing the surgery. Still cool, but not as cool as printing an actual replacement part would be.

      • Yup, I failed my reading comprehension. And while reading it I was wondering about FDA (or UK-equivalent) approval for such a construct, clinical trials, etc. Guess I was drinking too deeply from the stupid-cup this morning.

  • Let the jokes and conspiracy theories begin!

    Seriously, I wonder if a built in health monitor could be 'printed' into the bone? Or if stronger materials could be embedded into the normal biologically acceptable material? Carbon nanotube fibers surrounded by self-repairing plastic?

    Something that could pick up nervous system signals (if it's a bone it's darn close to them) and using the body as a natural antenna would be interesting. Someone put an iPhone into their artificial arm which was neat but doing some

  • I had this idea a long time ago... I am a complete idiot for not getting off my ass, and off slashdot.
    (I was in ortho clinicals at the time)

    Hell, if I had done it, i would probably have sold it to Nokia, or some other company with a history of #$%^ing things up
    • It's really just a timing thing. Orthpods have been doing this for years with varying technologies - he 'just' figured out how to massage the data in Osirex to talk to the Shapeways printers. A neat bit of programming but not, in and of itself, much of a business model.

      And to everyone who thinks they are actually making bones with the printers, back off on the Mountain Dew for a minute. They are just making plastic models to help visualize prospective surgeries better. It will be a while before Shapeways is

      • while it isn't possible to make actual bones, it is possible to make casts from the models, and make better fitting prosthetic pieces from them.
  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @01:40PM (#37937558) Homepage Journal

    Just like a comment a couple of days ago [], same here:

    Technology and innovation and invention causes prices to DROP not to rise and this is true for all fields and medical field is not an exception, however the paradox is in - the prices keep going up.

    Again: the reason that prices in western medicine are going up has nothing to do with innovation, technology and invention. Those things do push prices down.

    Any pill that prevents a surgery causes prices to go down.

    Yet the prices are going up. The reason why prices in health care and health insurance are going up is government money in it. Government creates, supports, subsidizes, promotes, stimulates and bails out monopolies, this is true for all monopolies, including the large pharma.

    FDA is standing there not to save you in any way, it's there to create a barrier to entry to any innovator who would otherwise come out with new technology. The innovator wants to make profit. There is plenty of profit to be made in health care and health insurance because there is plenty of things to innovate with. Plenty of new drugs, procedures, tools, instruments, data integration systems, etc.etc., all of this can be built. Most of it is not built, because the cost of entering the field is horrendous.

    Who has 500 million dollars to pay for whatever FDA wants and requires? All the the stuff that is being worked on - it has to overcome a major hurdle of sinking half a billion dollars initially, before even starting the sales.

    So first you have to spend time and money to create something, you HAVE to make sure it works. But then you have to pay everything that FDA requires for, and this goes into hundreds of millions. If you target a small time problem, where there are maybe a few tens of thousands of cases only to be helped, you are out of luck. You can't make any money, you can't overcome this hurdle of having to sink hundreds of millions of dollars.

    -- /. crowd can't seem to comprehend that, and it's funny, because they are capable of understanding at least some of the principle of initial investment. There were all these comments on the few people who make a lot of money by selling iPad and iPhone apps, and some HERE were arguing that it's impossible to turn a profit due to 'high cost of entry', which is 99 dollars.

    That's right, they are complaining that they have to sink 99 dollars of investment capital (as if they don't have to spend their actual time, which supposedly is worth more than that to write an app.)

    So they understand overcoming the 99 dollar barrier. How come they can't comprehend the difficulties involved in overcoming just the licensing costs of say half a billion (never mind the problems with all other gov't regulations, start with patents and end with drug distribution regulations).


    This story is good, somebody came out with an innovation. I am sure in FREE market he could make a difference.

  • That is not news, at least in Brazil. I have been to at least five speeches about the same topic in the last 6 years. By November 2007, five years in development inVesailus software became Free Software, using the CC-GPL license (a non official GPL translation license used in Brazil).

    From the Wikipedia article (in portuguese):
    "By 2010, the software was already used to build more than 1500 prototype models..."

    A 2008 article (in portuguese), showing a p
  • Steve Smith has been doing this at the John Radcliffe in Oxford for maybe ten years or more. He's a maxillofacial surgeon, working on difficult facial reconstruction (seriously, these guys get to see some ugly messes - what they do is incredible). He has a 5-axis mill, and some software cobbled together by a former PhD student. He uses CT data to cut out skulls from foam, so he can practice fitting plates to the skull before opening the patient. They also make neat desk ornaments.

It seems that more and more mathematicians are using a new, high level language named "research student".