Cars, guitars, and tracheal implants: Is there anything that 3-D printers can't make?
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The prognosis was bleak for Kaiba Gionfriddo, an infant suffering from tracheobronchomalacia, a condition that can cause weak airway walls to collapse during breathing or coughing. Kaiba's doctors sought help from University of Michigan scientists, who used 3-D printing techniques to design and implant a custom-made tracheal splint for Kaiba.
The researchers created the splint from a CT scan of Kaiba's trachea/bronchus. They used a 3-D biomaterial printing process to construct the device, which was made from a biopolymer called polycaprolactone. In February 2012, doctors sewed the splint around Kaiba's airway to expand his bronchus and provide a skeleton for growth. Over a period of three years, the boy's body will absorb the splint. The University of Michigan says this image-based design and 3-D printing method can be used to build and reconstruct various tissue and bone structures.
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