More patients aided by 3D printing

The Centre for Rapid Proto­typing and Manufacturing (CRPM) at the Central University of Technology (CUT), Free State, hopes to conti­nue assisting people needing medical devices.

The centre does ground-breaking work in the design, development and manufactu­ring of medical devices using 3D printing.

Dan Maritz, CUT spokes­person, said since the beginning of 2018 six people have been assisted.

“The goal for the year is about 15 patients,” Maritz said.

Elijah Cloete (6) is one of the six beneficiaries who were assisted lately. A challenging pediatric surgery by a team of experts of various medical disciplines was performed to give him a new lease on life.

Elijah was born with underdeveloped ears and sealed ear canals, an unusual congenital medical condition known as microtia with bilateral congenital aural atresia.

He underwent surgical preparation for a pair of custom-made prosthetic pinna, or external ears. Elijah also received a hearing aid to enhance his quality of life.

Maritz said the demand for people needing help was increasing.

“There is a very long list of patients who would like to be assisted. The team adds patients to a list as new requests come in.

“Patients are from public hospital. Assessments are made to assist as many patients as possible.

“However, funding is limited and the doctors carefully select who we can assist, which are urgent cases and how to make the meagre budget go as far as we can.”

According to Maritz, from 2015 to 2017 about 65 patients were assisted through the exper­tise of the CRPM team, the support of state and private hospitals and funding from partners such as the Fuchs Foundation.

Part of a research initiative, the CRPM’s latest technology model specialises in Additive Manufacturing (AM), known as 3D printing.

The CRPM manufactures a range of medical prototypes in metal and sand, and creates prostheses for medical implants. Medical devices are produced for people born with defects and needing prosthesis after accidents.

According to Maritz, some of these medical devices were the first of their kind in the country, putting the CUT at the forefront of innovation in the medical field.

He attributed success to the vital role that AM plays in medical product development and a team of experts.

Maritz said Prof. Cules van den Heever (the CUT’s extraordinary professor in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Systems and head of the maxillofacial periodontics unit based in Bloemfontein) and the CRPM team played a vital role in reconstructive surgery through the usage of AM technology.