Doctors found a cancerous lump on Shirley Anderson's tongue in the 1998 and shortly after, he began radiation treatments. He underwent a radium implant to help him replace some of his lower jaw, but it didn’t work. So he turned to prosthetics.
Dr. Travis Bellicchi, a maxillofacial prosthodontics resident at Indiana University, made the man a traditional prosthesis out of clay, but it was so large and uncomfortable that Anderson could only wear it for four hours at a time. So, Bellicchi started looking for a digital solution and eventually turned to 3D printing.
According to Formlabs, a digital model of Anderson’s face was created to capture bone detail, so that researchers could test a much lighter prosthesis for their patient.
The results are pretty astounding. We’ve known about similar techniques, including using 3D printing to create affordable artificial limbs, along with efforts such as with a man who received a new face in 2013. However, with Anderson, researchers, including Bellicchi and student Cade Jacobs, have created a new workflow that can create new body parts in a short amount of time. It’s called the “Shirley Technique” and it combines digital and traditional approaches to prosthesis production.
According to Indiana University, researchers used 3D printing to create a mould of the face. The negative space where Anderson’s chin and jaw would be is then used to create a prosthesis that is more realistic, lighter, and creates a more natural break around the edge.
“My motivation to use traditional materials is that they are predictable, they are biocompatible, they have research behind them, and we know how to do the characterisation to make them lifelike,” Bellicchi told the university.
Researchers added that so far, the method has been used on six other patients, including a man who received a new ear in just six weeks.