…Every year thousands of children worldwide, are born with a condition known as microtia. Microtia is a congenital deformity of the external ear, where it fails to fully develop. Approximately 1 in every 8,000-10,000 babies born will have some form of microtia. Although prosthetic ears, as well as ears crafted from a patient’s rib cartilage have been produced, researchers have been looking for an alternate, more precise means of reconstruction.
This is where 3D printing comes into play. Professor Alex Selfalian and his team at University College London have been working tirelessly on creating exact replica’s of a patients ear, via 3D scanning and printing technology. They have already begun testing the procedure on rats, with very successful results. This technology is about to undergo its first actual test within the human body, however. Within the next few months the very first clinical trial of its kind will see a dozen ear transplants performed on a dozen children in India. Trials are also expected to begin in the UK next year as well
The way the procedure will work is quite amazing. First a 3D scanner will scan the normal ear of the patient. At this point, the scan will be inverted, and turned into a 3D printable model. The researchers will then 3D print the ear out of a spongy plastic-like material which is porous and will act as a scaffold. The ear will then be placed under the skin on the forearm of the patient for between 4 and 8 weeks. Over this time, the forearm skin will grow around the scaffold, along with the necessary blood vessels. The ear is then removed from the arm, and transplanted to the patient’s head.
“This is going to revolutionise organs transplantation,” Dr Michelle Griffin, a surgeon at University College Hospital, told the BBC’s Inside Out program. “When children are born without ears or congenital deformities of the ear they have to go through quite invasive surgery. They have to get rib cartilage then we design it into ear and then they go through 3 or 4 operations to try and get this new ear. However if we can just 3D print the ear that limits 4 or 5 operations to just one operation”…..
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! We also offer the LulzBot TAZ – Open source 3D Printer and the Printrbot Simple Metal 3D Printer in our store. If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!