We’ve seen how a 3-D printer can make everything from Stephen Colbert’s head on the body of a T-Rex to “scaffolding” to help repair broken bones. Here’s another first in the 3-D printing world that also highlights its growing use in the medical field: doctors at the University of Hasselt in Belgium have created and put into use a jaw implant made with a 3-D printer.

Custom Jaw Made With 3 D Printer a First

The grey jaw was made using a 3-D printer. (Photo: University of Hasselt)

According to the press release from the university, an 83-year-old woman’s lower jaw was so infected that it merited removal. This would of course inhibit essential functions such as eating and breathing. A custom implant was made within a few hours using a 3-D printing technique, whereas traditionally made custom implants would take several days.

Here’s more on the implant’s creation:

The company LayerWise NV Leuven (Dr Peter Mercelis, Ir Reuben Wauthle) manufactured from titanium implant by additive Laser Melting technology, a specific form of 3D printing. Both the designing, processing and making of the implant was done digitally. ”Computer technology will cause a revolution in the medical world. We just need to learn to deal with, “adds Prof. Jules Poukens added,” The doctor and engineer together to design computer and the operating table: that’s really innovative. ”

The implant weighs about 107 grams. This is slightly heavier than a “natural” lower jaw, but not annoying. With other methods it can take two days for an implant is fully ready. With 3-D printing the job was done in a few hours. The company Cam bioceramics BV in Leiden (NL) foresaw an innovative artificial bone implant coating. This contributes to a good integration of the implant. The slots for the passage of the facial nerves, and the jaw cups were polished. The implant was also provided with openings in order to in a later phase artificial tooth roots, and an adequate level of false teeth to be able to affixing.

Custom Jaw Made With 3 D Printer a First

Medical professionals show how the lower jaw attaches to the upper at a press conference last week. (Photo: University of Hasselt)

Amazingly, near normal speech and swallowing was seen in the patient within a day of the implant surgery. The surgery was performed in June 2011, but the announcement of this custom-implant first came last week.

[H/T Gizmodo]