3D LifePrints (3DLP) supplies 3D printing services to the medical sector from our 3D printing hub at Alder Hey Children’s hospital in Liverpool. One of the most popular services is the supply of bespoke anatomical models which are provided to hospitals, universities and medical training centres where they are used for surgical planning, simulation of surgery, teaching and patient communication. Bespoke models are created from a patient’s scan data and produced in a range of materials suited to their use. Complex or unusual cases can be printed in lifelike materials to train clinicians in advance of procedures, to demonstrate the procedure to patients and family, and to allow greater planning before an operation therefore shortening theatre times and reducing aftercare. The models have been shown to improve surgical outcomes, drive cost efficiencies and improve patient care. Although 3D printing of anatomical models is widely supported by medical professionals it is currently under used. The innovation in 3DLP’s approach lies in being the first UK company to embed a 3D print hub inside a medical care facility – Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool. Working closely with top clinicians ( including those at Alder Hey, Liverpool Chest and Heart Hospital and the Royal Liverpool Hospital) and academic partners (including Liverpool University and John Moores University Liverpoool) allows us to drive innovation across the 3D printed medical products market, pushing the boundaries of bespoke and patient-specific medical tools and techniques.
Despite the accepted benefits to surgical outcomes, patient care and cost savings to the NHS, the UK had been slow to adopt the emerging science of 3D printing. We were keen to reduce the barriers clinicians faced in acquiring 3D printing services and to work with clinical and academic pioneers to improve the quality and range of patient specific 3D printed models. We are now able to print in materials that mimic tissue for simulated surgeries and are working to develop prosthetics that closely match skin colour and feel. Our work with NASA and the European Space agency will develop new materials including those with anti-microbial properties that will feed directly into medical applications. The next steps are to bio printing of bone scaffolds and tissue so that patient specific tissue and organs can be produced. 3D printing has a huge future in medicine, it provides personalised manufacture which is necessary for the delivery of personalised healthcare.
3DLP currently provide 3D printing services to medical institutions across the UK from our 3D printing hub in Liverpool. In one example surgeons from Alder Hey’s specialist orthopaedic spinal team in Liverpool used our 3D printed model of a spine taken from a CT scan of an eight-year-old patient from Wales. The model was sterilised and taken into theatre where it was used to guide surgeons during a procedure to correct a complex congenital spinal problem called kyphoscoliosis. Senior surgeon Jai Trivedi said: “There is no doubt the model made this complex procedure operation much safer as it allowed for accurate pre-operative planning and implementation at surgery.”
We are constantly inspired by the positive feedback we get from the surgeons using our models and the families who have benefited from them.
We aim to open a 3D printing hub in a host hospital in every region of the UK. These hubs will serve the region's medical 3D printing requirements providing national coverage. The creation of a web of embedded hubs will allow us to prototype, test and roll out 3D printing innovations to the medical sector which will improve patient care and the operational efficiency of the NHS.