As part of a college program, a team from the College of Engineering, Pune (CoEP) in India has developed unique software, which helped them make a 3D printed ear in just one week for 32-year-old Rucha (not her real name) from Kondhwa. Typically, it takes about a month to make an artificial ear, but thanks to the newly developed Osto3D software that the CoEP team developed, that fabrication time was greatly reduced. The successful auricular prosthesis surgery was performed on Rucha last month, when doctors from the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) attached the artificial ear.
The team used CoEP’s 3D Make Lab for the project, a public access facility for 3D printing and other advanced technology. Students and companies can use the 3D tools in the lab to build on creative concepts and research; the 3D Make Lab focuses on several different areas of research, including Biomedical Applications. Artificial ear team members Vikas Chougule, a PhD candidate, and Arati Mulay developed the Osto3D interface, which converts CT scan data into 3D BioCAD models; the models are then 3D printed at the 3D Make Lab. Innovative software, like Osto3D, and medical devices manufactured in the 3D Make Lab are helping to reduce the time and cost usually required for medical procedures, and making artificial body parts more affordable.
The Osto3D software was developed after the team discussed necessary surgical requirements with doctors, and how much time is generally needed to convert CT scan data to 3D biomodels. The software uses raw CT scan data from hospital facilities – the data files are simply uploaded to the software, which uses advanced image processing algorithms that were developed in-house to convert the CT images into point cloud data. Using CAD techniques, the points are fitted with a smooth, accurate surface, and the data is then exported as STL files. Two different case studies were conducted with the Osto3D interface: surgical guides developed for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (MISS), which were used in scoliosis surgeries in association with Walawalkar Hospital, and the 3D printed ear for Rucha.
“This modelled right ear was mirrored to the left side using advanced CAD technique, and the bottom support on the left side was modelled from CT scan data,” said Chougule. “These left side landmarks were added to the mirror of the right ear to construct the left ear model.”
“This computer aided design (CAD) model is exported to the standard template library (STL) file. The conventional process takes almost two weeks, which is replaced by just 30 minutes, for modelling the missing ear. The STL file is imported to the in-house RepFab 3D printing facility. Earlier, the patient had to pay more than three-four visits to the surgeon. But now, within three hours, the model of the ear and mould is fabricated with expected accuracy. The case is a joint collaboration between CoEP and AFMC, which is a first in the country.”
In addition to Chougule and Mulay, other team members include CoEP director B. B. Ahuga and Major (Dr.) Abir Sarkar from the AFMC. They used Osto3D to model a new left ear for Rucha, using a CT scan of her right ear.
“I am very happy now after the ear has been fixed,” said Rucha. “The AFMC doctors have done a great job, replicating the exact look of my ear. No one can figure out that it is an artificial ear. I want to thank the doctors and the CoEP team for giving me a new lease of life.”
We’ve seen 3D printing technology used in cosmetic surgery to make artificial ears before, in countries like Croatia and Australia. In this case, the Osto3D software helped the team mirror Rucha’s ear in just hours, which helped immensely when it came to creating the prosthetic ear.
“In cases such as Rucha’s, we usually tend to carve out the ear with the own costal cartilages of the patient and cover it with the skin to give a natural look,” explained Dr. Sumit Saxena, a cosmetic surgeon at Ruby Hall Clinic. “It takes around 10 to 15 days for us to make it. But, such technology will help cut down the costs of making a prosthetic ear.”