The CRIQ (also known as the “Centre de recherche industrielle du Québec”) is a research organization run by the Quebec government in Canada which undertakes over a thousand projects a year to push forward industrial innovation. In recent years, one of these projects has revolved around the adoption of additive manufacturing technologies for the development and production of next-gen implants and, specifically, lower jawbone implants.
This initiative recently took an important step forwards as CRIQ invested in an Arcam EBM Q10plus metal 3D printer. The GE Additive machine was reportedly installed at CRIQ’s 3D printing lab in Quebec in June and is being used to accelerate the exploration of additive manufacturing for jawbone implants.
The CRIQ’s investigation of AM for this specific application first began in 2016, when the organization joined CHU de Quebec, a medical partnership made up of five hospitals in the province that is focused on applying new medical technologies to improve patient outcomes and quality of treatment.
Within this context, CRIQ director of industrial equipment François Gingras and his team worked closely within cranio-maxillofacial surgeons to investigate the potential of using 3D printing to improve patient-specific jawbone implants.
Notably, the team has been working not just on developing one-off implants. Rather, the project has been geared towards establishing a reliable process for creating the custom implants, from design, to manufacturing, to validation. Ultimately, the CRIQ plans to offer the patient-specific implants with just a three week turnaround period. Presently, it takes up to six weeks to produce a lower jawbone implant using traditional manufacturing.
At this stage in the project, the 3D printed mandible project is undergoing medical certification testing through Health Canada—a process which began in October 2017. CRIQ says the certification is due to be achieved by January 2020, when it will enter full production for the 3D printed implants.
Crucially, the CRIQ project is based on the idea that additive manufacturing jawbone implants can have a positive impact on a system level in terms of improved patient care and overall costs. In other words, the organization is not thinking about cost on an implant to implant basis (where a 3D printed implant would be far more expensive than a traditional one). Instead, it is looking at costs on a system level.
“The business case isn’t in a part-to-part comparison; it needs to be justified through system-wide impact,” explained Gingras. “If a patient-specific implant can accelerate patient recovery, reduce risk, and lower overall healthcare costs for the Quebec Government, then we have a business case.”
With the addition of GE Additive’s Arcam EBM Q10plus metal 3D printer, CRIQ is aiming to accelerate its integration and exploration of AM for the jawbone implants.
“The medical device industry is one of the pioneer industries of additive manufacturing,” added Stephan Zeidler, business development manager medical at GE Addtive. “Additive manufacturing enables companies to manufacture patient-specific implants and customized devices in small batch production, but still in a cost-effective, industrial process. This way, the technology perfectly serves the trend for more individualized treatments in healthcare.
“Improved patient care in orthopedics, implantology and dentistry demands high-precision, perfectly fitting medical products. In medical and dental technology, there is a demand for parts produced individually or in small batches which must satisfy extremely high-quality standards regarding materials and workmanship.”