MACI 3D Printer Bridges Industrial Design With Medicine

 Robert Lederer of the University of Alberta Industrial Design Division is making “miracles,” literally, with his high-speed prototyping research and his MACI 3D printer. Lederer, who is currently working in collaboration with Dr J. Wolfaardt and the Craniofacial Osseointegration and Maxillofacial Prosthetic Rehabilitation Unit (COMPRU) research team at the Misericordia Hospital, is making outstanding breakthroughs that will revolutionize the traditional approach to surgical reconstructive procedures.

Conventionally, cranial reconstruction is carried out in a two-part procedure. Initially, a computer tomography scan image is taken and an exploratory operation is undergone to create a local impression of the frontal cranial defect. In the following two weeks, a cast of the defect is made and a prosthesis is designed. When the prosthesis is ready, a second operation is performed and the prosthesis is surgically implanted into the defect area.

With the evasiveness of this multi-operative procedure, much time and money is expended.  Potential infection and extended recovery of the patient is also a significant issue.  Now, with the technology of the MACI 3D printer, Lederer and Dr Wolfaardt’s team have developed a system that eliminates the need for the initial surgical procedure. Through information derived from the CT scan, the team has been able to isolate digital imaging information to create a replica 3D model of the defect area.  From this model a customized prosthesis can be fabricated and only one operation is required to insert the prosthesis.

The implications of this research program are immense. Patients will have less chance of infection and shorter recovery periods. Doctors will be less burdened by time constraints of multi-operative procedures and will be able to see more patients in a shorter time frame, reducing patient waiting lists. Administratively, a decrease in costs incurred for specialists will be seen and hospital wards will be more accessible to a greater number of patients.  The potential impact even extends to the area of telehealth and long distance medicine. Data files of a remote patient can be sent from afar, and Lederer and the COMPRU group can analyze the defect and fabricate a custom prosthesis. The actual operation could be undertaken in the hometown of the patient thus saving additional direct and indirect costs.

Continued support of the technological resources enabling these outstanding research breakthroughs is imperative. The societal implications alone warrant the further sustainability of such exceptional collaborative efforts.

Selected Publications

G.D Wheeler, R. Davoodi, R. Lederer, C. Weiss, K. Natho, J. Jeon, Y. Bhambhani, & J.R. Steadward. Functional electrical stimulation assisted rowing for spinal cord injury: advancement in exercise technologies for the spinal cord injured, 1999 (submitted for publication).

R. Lederer, R. Davoodi, B. Andrews, G.D Wheeler. Design of the ROWSTIM II_ system: Rowing exercise for spinal cord injured, Department Art & Design Exhibition, University of Alberta. January 2000.

G.D. Wheeler, R. Davoodi, R. Lederer, C.Weiss, J. Jeon, Y. Bhambhani & R.D. Steadward. FES assisted rowing for persons with spinal cord injury, Research Revelations . University of Alberta. February 5, 2000.

R. Lederer. MACI - 3D printer research possibilities, Research Revelations. University of Alberta. February 5, 2000.

R. Lederer Interdisciplanary and Collaborative -Design Research - Growing a knowledge, Published in conference proceedings. International Design Symposium, Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy. May 2000.

R. Lederer, T. Amell. Product Design: Up Front Collaboration Pays Off in the End. Aging with Attitude, Canadian Association on Gerontology Conference. Edmonton, Alberta October 2000.

E. Sharlin, B. Watson, L. Liu, S. Sutphen, R. Lederer, P. Figueroa, J. Frazer. The   Future of  VR and AR Interfaces: Multi-modal, Humanoid, Adaptive and Intelligent, to take place at IEEE-VR 2001, Yokohama, Japan, March 13-17,2001.