NHS Trust uses 3D printing for 'world first' transplant operation

A London NHS Trust has used 3D printing to help surgeons successfully transplant a father’s kidney into his two-year old son.

Two-year-old Dexter Clark received the kidney from his father Brendan Clark in a risky operation.

Surgeons at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust used multi-material 3D printing technology from Stratasys to determine whether they could carry out the procedure.  

The operation makes the Trust the first in the world to use 3D printed models to plan for the transplantation of an adult kidney into a small child with anatomical complexities

Even before Dexter was born, doctors knew he would need a kidney transplant and that his father would be the likely donor. However, in order to carry out the transplant, surgeons had to assess whether or not the procedure could be performed. The two major issues were that Dexter weighed less than 10kg, significantly increasing the risk, and that his father’s kidney was much larger than that of the average adult male. Both issues raised questions into the possibility and safety of implanting the donor kidney into Dexter’s abdomen.

Conventional medical imaging is typically used in the pre-surgical planning process, but this has its limitations according to Pankaj Chandak, transplant registrar at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, who said:

“Using our 3D printer, we worked in collaboration with Nick Byrne and his team – clinical scientists from our medical physics department who specialise in medical imaging.

“They converted patient CT scans into anatomically accurate, multi-material 3D models. These helped us appreciate aspects such as depth perception and space within the baby’s abdomen, which can often be difficult to ascertain when looking at conventional imaging.

“The ability to print a 3D model of the patient’s anatomy in varying textures, with the intricacies of the blood vessels clearly visible within it, enables us to differentiate critical anatomical relations between structures. The flexible materials also allowed us to better mimic the flexibility of organs within the abdomen for simulation of the surgical environment.”

“This technology has the potential to really enhance and aid our decision-making process both during pre-surgical planning and in the operating room, and therefore can help in the safety of what is a very complex operation and improve our patient care,” Chandak said.

The pre-surgical models allowed surgeons to determine feasibility of the operation, without having to conduct an invasive surgical procedure on Dexter beforehand. The team were also able to take the 3D models into the operating theatre and use them during the operation to  assess the best way in which the donor kidney would lie and fit into Dexter’s abdomen.

Emily Clark, Dexter’s mother, said, “Since the transplant, Dexter is a changed boy, eating solid food for the very first time. We always knew the operation would be complicated but knowing that the surgeons had planned the surgery with 3D models that matched the exact anatomy of my husband’s kidney and son’s abdomen, was extremely reassuring. We hope that Dexter’s case will offer other suffering families similar reassurance that cutting-edge technology, such as 3D printing, can help surgeons better treat their loved ones.”

Michael Gaisford, Stratasys’ director of Marketing for Stratasys Healthcare Solutions, said: “Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust is pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with multi-material 3D printing within healthcare. It is a clear demonstration of the ability for 3D printing to enable physicians to better plan, practice and determine the optimal surgical approach. We are delighted to see Dexter has fully recovered and hope many other children can benefit from such forward-thinking applications of our technology.”

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3D printing increases efficiency for ETSEIB Motorsport team

3D printing is giving a Spanish university team the edge in the annual Formula Student competition.

The ETSEIB team is comprised of engineering students nearing the end of their studies at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) Spain. Working with 3D printers from local manufacturer, BCN3D Technologies has streamlined the manufacturing process.

Since 1998, the Formula Student competition, has pitted international university students against each other to produce, construct, test and then race small-scale formula style racing cars. The event is organized by The Institution of Mechanical Engineers, (IMechE) to promote innovative engineering.

The team has over four years of experience in manufacturing combustion and electric cars.

Redefining workflow with 3D printing

The forty student engineers of ETSEIB Motorsport are using 3D printing to reduce costs and improve logistics during day-to-day operations. Specifically, ETSEIB Motorsport has improved their workflow in three main areas.

First, 3D printing is helping with design validation and component iteration times. Using the open source BCN Sigmax, in-house allows the engineers to print their CAD designs overnight; this radically reduces validation and iteration times boosting efficiency and decreasing dependency on external suppliers. This leaves more time for new concepts to be developed.

Secondly, 3D printing allows cost-effective manufacturing. The ETSEIB Motorsport students are manufacturing both end-use components and tooling for the car. These 3D printed parts include brake ducts, cable ties, and molds for carbon fiber bodywork.

3D printed cooling brake duct (left) and carbon fiber steering wheel made from a 3D printed mold (right). Photo via BCN3D.

Finally, overall car cost and lead times were reduced thanks to 3D printing. The team produced parts at a faster rate at lower costs when compared to traditional fabrication methods, particularly, the design of complex pieces. By cutting car costs through 3D printing, the team saved thousands of euros on car development which enabled them to pay back their initial investment within the first months of usage.

ETSEIB Motorsport formula racing car at the starting line. Photo via BCN3D.

3D printing in the automotive sector

While mass production using additive manufacturing is still on the distant horizon, as previously reported, the application of 3D printing in the automotive sector is increasing. Italian car manufacturer, XEV teamed up with 3D printer filament manufacturer Polymaker to manufacture a 3D printed low-speed electric vehicle (LSEV) destined for (relative) mass production. XEV reports that using 3D printing to manufacture a car has eliminated processes such as stamping, welding and painting of metals and rubber.

Local Motors is another company using 3D printing in the transport sector and have produced a 3D printed car.

ETSEIB Motorsport was placed in the top ten in three international Formula Student competitions—in Austria, Germany, and Spain. The team was awarded “Best Spanish Team” at the Montmeló circuit in Barcelona. The finals take place between 11-15th of July, 2018 at Silverstone racing track in the UK.  

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Featured image shows ETSEIB Motorsport Formula Student racing car. Photo via BCN3D.

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