Replacing damaged bone can be a tricky, expensive process and isn’t always successful. Autografts use bone from other parts of the body and other various ceramics or metallic alloys can be used for bone replacement as well. The problem with both of those methods is the limited amount of bone available for autografts and rejection for non bodily materials like metals.

Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Medicine has announced that is able to create artificial bone with a 3D Printer and has already used the technology to create replacement bones for four patients with cervical spine (cervical) disc herniation. Apparently the patients symptoms of gait disturbance and hand numbness were improved after the transplant.

Researchers used images from MRI and CT scans to create a 3D Cad file for the 3D printer. The file was then sent to the printer which used thin layers of titanium powder to create the implant. After heat treatment and adding an extra chemical to the mix, the 3D printed bone was ready to be transplanted into the patients neck.

The 3D printed transplant fit perfectly in the patients neck and the cost of making it was only several thousand yen (equivalent to about US$10).

According to the researchers they have also printed partĀ of a skull, femur and spine. They believe that 3D printing is particularly advantages for complex body parts such as a pelvis or a skull.

Watch the video below to get more of an idea on 3D printing bones and orthopaedic implants.