Adapting Industrial Research for Life-Saving Medical Uses

Article excerpt

Aperfect example of how cutting edge technology developed for industrial purposes can be adapted for medical use has taken place at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry.

A young girl seriously hurt in a road accident successfully came through a life-saving skull operation, with the help of a team of scientists and engineers at the PS40 million centre.

Experts at the MTC used the centre's advanced three dimensional modelling technology to generate a plastic template of a large piece of the girl's skull needed to repair a large hole resulting from the accident.

The girl needed the operation at Sheffield's Northern General Hospital. The complex cranioplasty surgery involved the precision replacement of a large piece of skull in a similar operation to that carried out in Birmingham on Taliban shooting victim Malala Yousafzai.

Using a CT scanner, surgeons took precise digital measurements of the patient's skull.This data was then sent to the MTC to be converted into a 3D model of the girl's anatomy.

Engineers at the MTC embarked on a rapid generation of a model of the damaged region of the skull using Hewlett Packard advanced three dimensional additive manufacturing equipment.

The model produced by the MTC was used by Dr Frank Johnson, consultant anaplastologist at the Northern General Hospital, to generate a ceramic former which was used to shape a sheet of thin titanium to cover the hole - a process normally used in the aerospace industry.

The whole process from initial despatch of the data from the hospital to the new titanium plate being put in place took less than a week.

David Wimpenny, manufacturing technology manager at the MTC, said the technology used involved an unrivalled level of accuracy.

He said, "The extreme accuracy of the process eliminated the need to modify the plates in theatre. …