CSIRO prints 3D titanium heel for world first surgery

Posted on 13 Jan 2015 by Tim Brown

In July last year, CSIRO help produce a replacement heel bone that was implanted into 71-year-old Len Chandler, a builder from Rutherglen Victoria, who was facing amputation of the leg below the knee following a diagnosis of cancer of the calcaneus, or heel bone.

In the space of two weeks, from first phone call to surgery, CSIRO and Anatomics were able to custom-design and present the titanium heel implant part to the St Vincent’s surgical team, in time for the surgery in the second week of July.

Working from Anatomics’ schematics for the calcaneus heel bone, teams at Anatomics and CSIRO developed the design requirements with St Vincent’s Hospital surgeon Professor Peter Choong and printed the titanium heel implant using CSIRO’s Arcam 3D printer.

The underneath of the titanium heel bone implant - image courtesy Anatomics.
The underneath of the titanium heel bone implant – image courtesy Anatomics.
Three months after the surger, Mr Chandler returned to St Vincent’s Hospital for a check-up and said he was recovering well, and able to place some weight on his implant.

“The customisation of 3D printing is good in emergency situations such as these,” a member of CSIRO’s titanium printing team Dr Robert Wilson said.

“Custom designed implants mean job opportunities in this area as these types of surgeries become more commonplace.”
CSIRO is working with a number of major companies and SMEs across Australia to build capacity in biotech and manufacturing.

“3D printing is a local manufacturing process, meaning Australian companies produce implants for our own patients for our own doctors to use. We would no longer have to rely on imported parts that slow the process down and is less personal for the patient,” CSIRO’s Director of High Performance Metal Industries John Barnes said.

“At some point in the future we expect that local for-profit businesses will have the capacity to work on projects like this, and meanwhile the CSIRO is here to help local industry grow and build momentum.”