Disruptive Medical Technology: What size jaw implant can we 3D print for you?


Woman’s jaw replaced with 3D printed titanium implant

An elderly woman suffering from progressive degeneration of her jawbone had the entire jaw replaced with a custom manufactured titanium jaw that was manufactured with 3D printing technology. A Belgian company, LayerWise, announced in February, 2012 that it made the jawbone implant through additive manufacturing, a process that allows fabricators to produce an object directly from a CAD (Computer-Aided Design) drawing. According to a press release from LayerWise, “The revolutionary patient‐specific implant has been developed and produced under supervision of Prof. Dr. Jules Poukens, in collaboration with specialized industrial and academic parties in Belgium and The Netherlands.” According to Dr. Poukens,

The new treatment method is a world premiere because it concerns the first patient-specific implant in replacement of the entire lower jaw. The implant integrates multiple functions, including dimples increasing the surface area, cavities promoting muscle attachment, and sleeves to lead mandible nerves. Furthermore, the mandible implant is equipped to directly insert dental bar and/or bridge implant suprastructures at a later stage. I led the team of surgeons who implanted the A[dditive] M[anufacturing]-produced structure during a surgery of less than four hours at the Orbis Medisch Centrum in Sittard-Geleen. Shortly after waking up from the anesthetics the patient spoke a few words, and the day after the patient was able to speak and swallow normally again.

Degenerated jaw before transplant

Degenerated jaw before transplant (Source: LayerWise)

3D printed titanium jaw implant

3D printed titanium jaw implant (Source: LayerWise)

The “additive manufacturing” process

In the Additive Manufacturing (AM) process, a high-precision laser selectively heats metal powder particles to quickly and fully melt to properly attach to the previous layer without glue or binder liquid. As layers are built successively, AM hardly faces any restrictions to produce the complex lower jaw implant structure. The AM process is used to print functional implant shapes that otherwise require multiple metalworking steps or even cannot be produced any other way.

After the jaw implant was manufactured, it was post-processed with dental suprastructure provisions, polished joint surfaces and a bioceramic coating before being surgically implanted.

Image of jaw implant surgery.

Surgeons replaced the entire lower jaw bone structure with a patient-specific total mandible implant. (Source: LayerWise)

Future Disruptive Implications

The outlook for use of the 3D additive manufacturing process in the medical field is quite positive. According to Dr. ir. Peter Mercelis, Managing Director of LayerWise:

Besides a successful track record in industrial sectors, metal AM is gaining importance in medical implantology. AM’s freedom of shape allows the most complex freeform geometries to be produced as a single part prior to surgery. As illustrated by the lower jaw reconstruction, patient‐specific implants can potentially be applied on a much wider scale than transplantation of human bone structures and soft tissues. The use of such implants yield excellent form and function, speeds up surgery and patient recovery, and reduces the risk for medical complications.

Additive Manufacturing (AM) is increasingly being adopted in different medical fields such as dentistry, orthopedics, maxillofacial and spinal surgery.

More Images of the Implant and the Procedure

Surgery image

The team of surgeons and engineers, while implanting the AM‐produced patient‐specific mandible structure. (Source: LayerWise)

The titanium implant
Titanium and features reduce implant weight. Cavities facilitate muscle diagastic attachment and ingrowth. (Source: LayerWise)

X-ray of patient after implant (left view)X-ray of patient after implant (front view)

X-ray images showing the AM-produced lower jaw reconstruction implanted into the patient (top photo: side view x-ray; bottom photo: front view x-ray) (Source: LayerWise).


  1. By Miranda


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