Imagine a future where a surgeon needing to replace a patient’s damaged bone or joint takes a scan of the body part and emails it to an onsite manufacturer, who then prints off the customised implant and rapidly delivers it for use in surgery.
Such a scenario is no longer just in the realm of science fiction. Advanced manufacturing techniques and developments in computer sciences, pioneered by the Australian firm Anatomics, are making customised implants a reality.
Anatomics is a Melbourne-based, Australian-owned innovative medical device and software company that pioneered the use of 3D imaging and printing to manufacture surgical implants from advanced composite materials that are revolutionising patient care in a range of applications.
The technology has recently been used to design a world-first 3D-printed titanium and polymer sternum, which was successfully implanted into a British patient who had previously had his sternum removed because of a rare infection. Another was implanted into an American patient after a tumour was removed from her sternum.
Research and development has been critical to developing Anatomics’ breakthrough technology. Anatomics founder, Mr Paul D’Urso, first began the research that led to the formation of the company in 1995 with a $1200 grant from the hospital he worked in, and support from the Queensland Government.
Later, Anatomics’ research partnerships with Australia’s national science agency CSIRO was also crucial, enabling the company to draw on specialist expertise in disciplines such as material science, and granting them access to cutting-edge infrastructure, such as CSIRO’s Lab 22 facility in Melbourne, which assisted to design and print the titanium sternums.
Anatomics is creating social and economic potential. Its technology has the potential to revolutionise the prosthetics industry, as custom-made implants are often more durable, better fitting and cheaper than currently available ‘off-the-shelf’ alternatives. The company exports to around 40 countries and has created highly skilled roles working at the global forefront of medical technology.