Sebastiaan Deviaene designs medical implants using video game development software

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Future Makers: industrial designer Sebastiaan Deviaene explains how he works with digital tools more commonly used by video game developers to create 3D-printed implants for bone reconstruction in this movie.

Custom-fit 3D-printed medical implant for bone reconstruction by Sebastiaan Deviaene
Digital render of a 3D-printed jaw implant by Deviaene

Belgian designer Deviaene works with the medical engineering department at Instituto Tecnológico de Canarias (ITC), a government-funded industrial research and development organisation based in the Canary Islands, to design custom-fit implants for reconstructive surgery in animals and humans.

Custom-fit 3D-printed medical implant for bone reconstruction by Sebastiaan Deviaene
Digital render of a 3D-printed jaw implant by Deviaene

He recently designed a pair of 3D-printed implants to reconstruct the jaw of a patient based in Argentina. Working together with a local company called Raomed, Deviaene was able to work on the whole project remotely, without ever visiting South America.

Custom-fit 3D-printed medical implant for bone reconstruction by Sebastiaan Deviaene
3D model of a patient's skull and jaw implant in 3ds Max

"They scanned the patient and sent the 3D file to us," he explains. "Then we reconstructed the jaw line of the patient."

"The final product was made using EBM technology, which stands for electron beam melting. We prepared it for shipping and never had to travel to Argentina to collaborate."

Custom-fit 3D-printed medical implant for bone reconstruction by Sebastiaan Deviaene
3D-printed implant made from a titanium alloy

Deviaene's implants for ITC, which are 3D-printed from a medical-grade titanium alloy, feature a lattice structure at the points where the metal meets the patients' bone, which allows the two materials to fuse together.



"3D lattices are really necessary in the medical domain, because solid materials tend to make the bone brittle after time," Deviaene explains. "You really need a 3D lattice to stimulate the bone growth."

Custom-fit 3D-printed medical implant for bone reconstruction by Sebastiaan Deviaene
Deviaene uses 3ds Max to scrpit the lattice structures used in his implants

Frustrated by the expense and inflexibility of existing medical software packages for designing implants, Deviaene turned to 3D computer graphics software.

"I use 3DS Max to script the lattice structures and as well to design the custom-fit part of the implants," he explains.

"It is funny to use it for medical applications, because it is more of an architectural visualisation tool or video game development tool. But it is a very stable platform for mesh-based modelling."

Custom-fit 3D-printed medical implant for bone reconstruction by Sebastiaan Deviaene
X-ray showing Deviaene's implants in the patient after surgery

The hardness and stiffness of metal implants means that they are usually only useful for bone reconstruction, but Deviaene is currently working with ITC to develop 3D-printed implants using more flexible hybrid materials.


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He says that we'll soon be able to design and print implants for softer tissue types.

Custom-fit 3D-printed medical implant for bone reconstruction by Sebastiaan Deviaene
Digital render of a 3D-printed jaw implant by Deviaene

"The exciting thing is we're currently quite restricted to bone reconstruction," he explains. "But in the future, we'll be moving into new tissues using various different bio-absorbable materials. So it is actually just the beginning."

Sebastiaan Deviaene portrait
Sebastiaan Deviaene

Future Makers is a collaboration between Dezeen and Autodesk exploring how designers are harnessing new digital tools and advanced manufacturing technology to pioneer the future of making things.

You can watch all the movies in the series as we publish them on our YouTube playlist:

  • Sim

    The TU in Delft (in the Netherlands) is – in coöperation with the medical faculty of the VU in Amsterdam – doing said research into “other materials” and “softer materials” in combination with 3D printing, and trying to fuse printed structures with the patients bone material for a few years now.

  • James

    This is how design is actually changing people’s lives!

  • STUx

    I can foresee a future where people design updates for themselves at home using their game consoles!

  • m. spencer

    This entire article is an advert. It’s buried in the last paragraph. That explains the “normally used by video game developers” hyperbole. 3DS Max is a massively popular 3D generalist platform.

    Maybe be a bit more forthcoming for the next “Future Makers” instalment?

  • Delbert Grady

    “Hey buddy, you got a dead cat in there?”

  • Bumrush

    Boeing has recently developed a micro-lattice nickel-phosphorus alloy, which is the lightest metal ever developed and has the properties of bone structure. Now wouldn’t that be interesting as a bone replacement.

    • joyce perih

      Unfortunately many patients have diagnosed nickel allergies. Unfortunately the orthodontic industry has discovered patients undiagnosed with metal allergies. Bonded braces containing various amounts and mixtures of nickel alloys. It often results in mouth sores, swollen gum tissue, inflamed lip tissue and sometimes other oral symptoms.