On 28 June 2017, a team from the Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing (CRPM) at CUT in partnership with three Durban surgeons, medical specialists, and Life Chatsmed Gardens Hospital, gave a new lease of life and restored dignity to three Durban patients who had benign tumours that was slowly disintegrating their jawbones and disfiguring their faces. The patients were successfully operated on and received titanium implants which are manufactured at CRPM.
The CRPM team of experts led by Prof. Cules van den Heever (CUT Extraordinary Professor in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology and Head of Maxillofacial Periodontics Unit based in Bloemfontein), played a vital role in the reconstructive surgery through the use of Additive Manufacturing (AM) technology, also known as 3D printing to assist surgeons to plan complicated surgery down to the finest detail; thereby shortening the operating time considerably and mitigating risks of complications due to prolonged procedures which may result in infections, excessive blood loss and exposure to radiation.
Through this technology, the CRPM’s capabilities in the design and manufacturing of patient-specific implants have undergone significant strides and its goal is to expand its wealth of knowledge and research while forming deeper alliances with partners within business and industry, government, medical professionals, as well as private and public hospitals. The focus of the project which is intended to run over four years, is intended to reduce patient backlogs in the public sector, whilst also improving the patients’ quality of life and restoring dignity.
Prof. Henk de Jager, Vice-Chancellor and Principal at CUT said he is proud of the role that the centre is playing to change the lives of ordinary citizens. “The production of medical products in this case where we have got a strong focus on titanium custom-made implants is absolutely crucial and it is aligned with our vision on social and technological innovations. If you could see what the CRPM is doing in making a difference in people’s lives, you will be blown away.”
Additive Manufacturing (AM) has undergone impressive growth for some time now and the university is proudly taking a lead in innovations that is changing the face of medical science in Africa. The CRPM was established in 1997 as a centre for commercial work and research, and has since then delivered more on its remit. The centre has an impressive array of state-of-the-art machinery and equipment that allow users to print with more than one material at a time.
According to Dr Vivesh Rughubar, Maxillofacial and Oral Surgeon from King Edwards State hospital, not only did this procedure change the way in which the medical community views 3D printing, but it also costs much less than traditional jaw implant surgery. “Our past frustrations are over now; the 3D printing technology is the way to go and has reduced the surgical operations that would have otherwise taken us the entire day to perform.”
From 2015 to date, the centre’s ground-breaking work in the design, development, and manufacturing of medical devices using 3D printing, and has assisted over 65 patients country wide through the support of state and hospitals, the expertise of CRPM and funding from partners such as Fuchs Foundation. Some of these medical devices were first of their kinds in the country; making CUT to stand at the forefront of innovation in this field.
It is worth noting that CRPM was ISO certified on 20 June 2016 – making CUT the first and the only establishment in Africa to manufacture medical devices through the use of 3D printing and one of a few in the world to receive such international certification.
The impressive collaboration was an effort between CUT-CRPM, Technimark Medical, CAF in Stellenbosch, Special Alloys and Metallurgical Services (SAMS), CSIR, HEPRO, the Carl & Emily Fuchs Foundation, and Life Healthcare Group.
The patients were reported to be out of intensive care and recovering well.
Courtesy: Central University of Technology