Ground-breaking in SA – Surgical operation using 3D printing technology


Additive Manufacturing (3D printing technology) has the potential to change lives and Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT) is driving that change for the betterment of ordinary people.

Today marks the second surgical operation in which Dr Van den Heever from the University of Pretoria and Central University of Technology’s Center of Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing will partner once again to change lives of two patients whose mandible implants were created with the 3D printing at CUT.

This is a ground-breaking work in 3D printing in the medical field which these patients will receive titanium implants after having lost parts of their faces due to cancer and other related diseases.

Dr van den Heever who has been working with Centre for Rapid Prototyping Manufacturing (CRPM) will lead and conduct these two operations.

“We are incredibly pleased to have such a well-known expert, Dr Van Heerden who has worked in this industry for years and is very well respected within this field,” said Prof Henk De Jager, Acting Vice Chancellor and Principal at CUT.

Pre-operational planning was also done using 3D printing. Details are as follows:
• Kimberley Hospital.
• Operation 1 to start at 08:00 (estimated time 3 hours)
• Operation 2 to start at 11:00 (estimated time 3 hours)
• Estimated completion time: 14:00

The university specialises in Additive Manufacturing (AM), commonly known as 3D printing through its Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing (CRPM) was established in 1997 as a centre for commercial work as well as research. CUT stands for and the inroads it has made into AM as a whole, and in South Africa.

The centre has an impressive array of state-of-the-art machinery and equipment, including the Objet Connex 350 3D printing machine that allows for users to print with more than one material at the same time. Thanks to heavy investment and support from the National Research Foundation (NRF), the centre is able to provide both staff and students with exceptional tools with which they can maintain their lead at the forefront of research into 3D printing technology.

The CRPM provides a one-stop solution for product and industrial designers to manufacture prototypes for form and function tests as well as final prototypes prior to tooling. Our goal is to create safe environments for medical practitioners to share their ideas and to form a consortium between doctors and CUT’s product development centres to drive development. This could have enormous potential benefits for both the medical profession and the AM environment, said Mr Gerrie Booysen, Director of CRPM.

The centre also used this technology successfully in developing the first South African aircraft engine for Adept Airmotive and looks set to make a substantial difference in the competitiveness of these casting industries.

An image of the first implant.

Image of the patient to recieve the implant.