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Additive manufacturing and 3D printing together to save lives

fabricación aditiva

The multiple uses of plastics make our lives easier in many ways: they protect or help to preserve our food and they form the structure of our everyday electronic devices, among other services. In short, most of the objects around us are made from plastics, thanks to, to a large extent, innovation. One of the application areas has recently shown how plastics can be crucial for people’s lives: we are talking about medicine.

At Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, the 5-years-old girl Mia González has been just saved. She suffered from a heart malformation that, until now, was inoperable. The double aortic arch is a congenital heart anomaly in the aorta that makes difficult the air inlet due to trachea and oesophagus compression.

Stratasys Ltd. Company, dedicated to 3D manufacturing and printing, thus printed a plastic heart by 3D printing identical to the girl’s heart for the previous planning of surgery and for knowing the steps to follow in this difficult operation. For more than two decades, plastics and 3D printing combination has been used for medical tools creation, but never before real size organs have been done to treat complex cases such as Mia’s case. The objective of using this plastic heart was to know deeply the girl’s heart, since there are not two people with identical organs.

The plastic organ was manufactured thanks to the collaboration between the surgeon team of the hospital and Stratasys Ltd. The procedure started with the study and 3D scanning of Mia’s heart, to which doctors incorporated physiological characteristics that it presented from the medical point of view, as well as some details for the later final 3D printing.

From all this, we can state that the application of plastics has reached the point of acquiring great importance in people’s health. In this case, thanks to this system, it has been possible to deepen in human body knowledge, one step closer in the great alliance that form medicine, the plastics world and 3D printing.