Photo by: Davor Žunić
A PIONEER OF 3D PRINTING IN CROATIA AND A MAN WHO MAKES SPARE PARTS FOR THE HUMAN BODY
Assistant Professor Sven Maričić has been holding lectures on the topic of 3D printing for years across Croatia, but also in Dubai, Denmark and throughout Europe. Just recently he has shared his knowledge in China, where he has also learned a lot. When he was in Sweden, he got the opportunity to work at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, but, he wasn’t able even to start the collaboration, because this was not tolerated at his workplace then! Although originally from Rijeka, he is currently advancing professionally at the University of Pula, where he holds his position of Assistant Rector and the Chief of Center for Biomodeling and Innovation at the Faculty of Medicine.
Sven Maričić is a pioneer of surgical implementation of 3D printing in this part of Europe. The point of the surgical implementation of 3D printing is to help the patient recover more quickly after major injuries. Basically, a 3D printer is used to produce a spare body part that is missing as a consequence of a disease, current state or an injury.
3D print of human body parts
The implant that is being used is produced in layers by using 3D print. Maričić, who has received many awards for his work, explains that the process itself is highly complex and that it consists of several stages.
– The first stage is doing a CT or an MRI scan of the patient. The second stage includes the analysis of the scans and a consult with surgeons on what model of the implant ought to be made, that is, produced by a 3D printer. In the third stage, a computer mathematical model is generated, after which the primary image is transferred to a 3D printer. This means that in order for the spare body part to be printed out by a 3D printer, for it to become real and tangible, we need to make a computer model of it. A new consult with the surgeons is followed by additional testing, and only after this all has been completed, we start with the final project of production and implantation. The materials that are used for the production of an implant are approved by the Croatian Health Insurance Fund, e.g. polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), titanium alloys…
Cooperation with clinics in Croatia
– So far we have collaborated with around ten clinics in Croatia, and we also have also established great cooperation with Lovran Clinic for Orthopedics. We have already performed several successful 3D printer implementations in orthopedics. We have done mathematical measurements for pelvises and various other reconstructions, and we have also printed 3D models for surgeons to practice operating on – says Maričić.
To put it in simple terms and still be exact – Sven Maričić and his associates do the following as well: not only do they print the body part that is being implanted, they also often print a body part that is a most fateful copy of the human body that surgeons then use to practice operating on.
– This means that, by using a 3D printer, surgeons get to have a body part that is identical to an actual human body part, and then they can practice on it before they perform an actual surgery. Surgeons get to practice the surgery whenever and as much as they want and they can proceed with the actual surgery only when they believe they are fully ready. So far, we have 3D printed an implant for forehead and nose reconstruction that had previously been removed from a patient due to an illness. The latest project that we had was an auricula and a nose, and we also did a part of a face and skin for one patient. This means that after hard tissue, we have also developed a segmentation technique of working with soft tissue like skin. This has become a trend abroad and we are successfully keeping up.
We also do arm, hand and leg prosthetics… – says Maričić.
– OK – we ask him – what makes your leg prosthetics better than the one produced by a more common procedure?