While Wolverine's skeleton was originally reinforced with 'true adamantium' in the Marvel universe, right here in our very real (and often just as cruel) human world a cancer patient had his sternum and rib cage replaced by the world's first 3D-printed chest prosthetic made from titanium.
A 54-year-old patient from Spain was suffering from a chest wall sarcoma, a cancer so aggressive that it required specific sections of his rib cage to be removed. His team of doctors at the Salamanca University Hospital told him that having a titanium prosthetic designed especially for him would not only save his life, but would also prove to be the best solution in the long term.
A medical-device-producing company Anatomics from Australia teamed up with the patient's surgical team and made some high resolution CT scans to design an implant specifically customized to fit perfectly in the patient's chest and create a digital reconstruction of the rib cage.
Quoting the CSIRO (The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation from Australia) blog post: "This part of the chest is notoriously tricky to recreate with prosthetics, due to the complex geometry and design required for each patient."
When the design was finished and approved, Anatomics sent the digital file to CSIRO's 3D printing laboratory (called Lab 22), which printed the implant one fine layer by another with its powerful AU$1.3 million Arcam electron beam metal 3D printer. The final product was a lightweight, superstrong titanium replacement that soon after saved a human life.
The surgery was successful and some 2 weeks after the patient was allowed to leave the hospital. According to CSIRO, the patient is doing well, while this remarkable medical breakthrough proved yet again that 3D printing is undoubtedly becoming one of the most important technologies of the present as well as the future.