The second greatest thing to come from ubiquitous, consumer-level 3D printing will be escaping the tyrannical grip of Games Workshop. As for the first? Pumping out replacement body parts for those with less good ones. On the noggin front, a team from the University of Sydney has come up with a way of printing bits of skull on the cheap.
Replacing the damaged portion of a person's skull after a serious head injury is a prolonged affair, with "several weeks" of waiting not out of the question, according to the university's media release on the breakthrough:
Dr Phillip Boughton, head Faculty of Engineering's cutting edge Implant Design and Manufacture laboratory and supervisor of the project says: "Serious head trauma can lead to significant loss of skull bone. The current procedure requires a surgeon to stretch and stitch excess skin around the wound and wait until a suitable implant can be produced."
That implant ends up being a titanium mesh, which can cost upwards of $5000. The new technique, which involves 3D printing new skull sections from a sterile "bio-compatible polymer bone cement", costs around $300 and takes just days to complete. There's the added benefit of the replica being modelled from patient scans, so its dimensions and shape are very accurate.
The release mentions the approach has been used successfully in the field and it'll be further developed for use with other types of bone and even cartilage.