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The challenge

Avoiding the need for amputation

Bone cancer (sarcoma) is a rare form of cancer. While treatment methods for bone cancer can vary, amputation of the affected area is sometimes necessary.

A Victorian patient with cancer of the calcaneus, or heel bone, was facing amputation of the leg below the knee, before their surgeon at St Vincent's Hospital had a vision for an alternative treatment.

Our response

Bringing together the brightest minds

After hearing about our 3D printing work, St Vincent's Hospital approached us with the idea for a metallic implant which would support the body's weight.

At the time, we were collaborating with Victorian-based biotech company Anatomics on metallic implant technology. We brought Anatomics into the discussion to draw their experience as a certified custom medical device manufacturer.

Together, we designed the ideal heel implant and then used our Arcam 3D printer to produce it out of titanium. Three days later it was implanted by surgeons at St Vincent's Hospital.

CSIRO and Anatomics produced this titanium heel bone implant using CSIRO's state-of-the-art Arcam 3D printer. Image courtesy Anatomics.

The results

3D printing delivers in emergencies

This Australian collaboration saved the patient's leg from immediate amputation.

It took only two weeks from the first initial phone call to surgery, demonstrating how Australian manufacturers and healthcare providers can use 3D printing to quickly design, test and produce customised biomedical products locally.

Our innovative 3D titanium implants could transform healthcare and enhance the quality of people's lives around the globe.

[Music plays, various computerised images appears on screen of toys, spare parts, tools, shoes]

Narrator:  For a long time Australia’s been pretty good at mass producing objects, but there’s a lot of scenarios where that’s no use.  Sometimes you need a one off object with very particular attributes, and you need it fast. 

[Text appears on screen:  one off object with very particular attributes fast] 

In 2014 a man in Melbourne had cancer in his heel bone and was facing a leg amputation below the knee.

[Image changes to show a computerised image of a man and text appears on screen:  2014; cancer in his heel bone]

[Image changes to show a computerised image of the man with an amputation of his lower limb]

Ordinarily that would have been the end of it, and the patient would have mobility issues for the rest of his life.

[Image changes to show a computerised image of the man with an amputation of his lower limb using crutches]

[Image changes to show a computerised image of a hospital and text appears on screen:  St Vincent’s Hospital]

But he had a surgeon at Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital who luckily had seen some of our work in titanium 3D printing.

[Image changes to show a computerised image of a 3D printed object and text appears on screen:  titanium 3D printing]

He got in touch with our LAB 22 facility, who then involved a medical devices company called Anatomics.

[Text appears on screen:  LAB 22; ANATOMICS; implant design; 3D printing]

We combined their knowledge of implant design with our 3D printing expertise.

[Text appears on screen:  two weeks later]

In just two weeks we had a replacement heel bone made out of titanium.;[Image changes to show a computerised image of a 3D printed titanium heel bone and text appears on screen:  strong; smooth; rough; holes; dimension lines appear around the object]

It was strong enough to support the human body.  It varied in texture where needed, smooth surfaces where it meets other bones, rough surfaces where it needs to adhere to tissue, and holes for suture locations.  And it was the precise dimensions to be a perfect fit for the patient.

[Image changes back to the computerised image of the man with an amputation of his lower limb using crutches and text appears on screen:  world first]

It was a world first, and it worked.

[Image changes back to show a computerised image of the man]

The patient kept his leg.  We can use this approach to solve all kinds of problems, not just biomedical ones, but in the automotive industry, manufacturing, and aerospace.

[Text appears on screen:  biomedical; automotive; manufacturing; aerospace]

[Text appears on screen:  the way of the future]

3D printing is the way of the future, and we’re already there.

[CSIRO logo appears with text: Big ideas start here]

How 3D printing saved a man’s leg

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