Biomedical Device Makers Reshape Heads - and Lives - With Volumetric Software

When defect, deformity, or injury alters cranial bones, surgeons need a unique blend of engineering and artistry to return the human face to its former aesthetics. Advances in volumetric CAD technology are allowing traditional CAD manufacturing principles to meet complex medical modeling needs that formerly couldn’t be handled digitally — like reshaping the human skull. These advances let biomedical engineers digitally sculpt a custom cranial implant or surgical guide with the best fit and function for each patient.

A new breed of rapid-product-development firms provides doctors and patients with such surgical guides and custom implants faster and more cost effectively, thanks to advances in rapid manufacturing techniques and biocompatible materials.

Despite readily available digital medical imaging files such as CT scans and MRIs, patient-specific implants and surgical guides are still primarily made by hand by small labs. Organizations usually can’t support volume demand for digital fabrication devices to justify their cost. Labs cut, grind and manually shape surgical guides and implants that must be iteratively fitted to the patient, despite the fact that there are precise digital files that represent the perfect template for the desired human form. In the case of a cranial implant, time is often of the essence, minimizing the patient’s risk for further injury or infection.

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