Biomedicine and makers together, 3D technology increases surgery success rates

Issue Consultant: Danny Chen, Writer: vMaker Editors

Calling all makers who are interested in biomedicine! In this month’s vMaker topic, we invited Danny Chen, the founder of FabLab NDMC, to show us the progress of combining biomedicine and maker movement from the past two years. How can makers get into the saving lives professionally? Chen shares his opinions and observation with the makers.


The Medical FabLab NDMC founded by Danny Chen was also interviewed by vMaker a while ago ( It is alo based on his experience in 3D printing and digital understanding, to collaborate with experts of different fields to explore new possibilities.

3D surgical simulation greatly reduces the risks for pelvic and acetabular fracture patients

Early this year, the Tri-Service General Hospital Orthopaedic Department introduced the technology of 3D image simulation and printing, and successfully applied it on patients with pelvic and acetabular fractures. According to Tri-Service General Hospital, a patient suffered from right pelvic pain when he walked, and he only sought medical treatment until he could barely walk. A tumor of 10 cm was then found in his right ilium which was severely eroding his pelvis, causing imminent risk of fracture. In the past, a pelvic tumor transplant was considered one of the most difficult musculoskeletal surgeries. Since the introduction of the new technology, it is now possible to 3D print the pelvis in 1:1 ratio, and simulate the position and curvature of the metal plates before the surgery. Once the tumor is removed, the bones can be immediately fixated. Surgeries that used to cause massive bleeding are now substantially reduced, due to better situation control.

Using 3D printing, orthodontic plates can now be made for pectus excavatum

In this year’s “Building a Comprehensive 3D Printing Medical Service Forum” and “Medical Design Workshop” held by the National Defense Medical Center and Tri-Service General Hospital Orthopaedic Department, Chief Resident Guanxun Lin (林冠勳) revealed another new technology. The Tri-Service General Hospital has been planning the 3D printing center for 2 years, and has successfully used 3D printing to cure “pigeon chest” for 20 patients. Pectus excavatum not only affects your appearance, but also causes breathing difficulty. Patients suffer from shortness of breath when they exercise. The orthodontic plate surgery introduced to Taiwan over 10 years ago uses the orthodontic plate to push the concave sternum outward as a way of correction. It is also known as the Nuss surgery, and there are 300 to 400 patients undergoing this procedure every year. Compared with older methods, the Nuss surgery leaves smaller incisions, the patients are able to recover in just 3 months, and the orthodontic plates can be removed in 2 to 4 years. Since the introduction of 3D printing, we can now accurately calculate the curvature of the orthodontic plates and the optimal positions of placement to achieve high surgery success rates, instead of inserting 2 or 3 pieces like in the past. With the help of 3D printing, orthodontic plates can be customized for each different patient according to his sternum measurement and the curvature required. The duration of the surgery is also shortened from an hour to only 40 minutes.

An opportunity for a comprehensive 3D printing hospital, with help from the forum

The aforementioned “Building a Comprehensive 3D Printing Medical Service Forum” and “Medical Design Workshop” are what Danny Chen considered the milestone for his past year’s work. The forum also invited the team from the Boston Children’s Hospital, which is ranked the best children’s hospital in America, to share with Taiwan’s medical personnel the latest cases of 3D medical treatment, and offer their experiences and suggestions on the introduction and advantage analysis of cardiology, pulmonology and orthopedics. Tri-Service General Hospital also pointed out on a similar 3D technology that the “video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery,” which is the most common lung cancer surgery, can now use 3D printing to accurately locate the patient’s bronchi, pulmonary arteries and veins. Through the reconstruction of 3D image, doctors can learn the corresponding locations of blood vessels and bronchi from different angles, and then simulate the entire surgery to reduce risks.

The forum lasted for 3 days. Both China Medical University Hospital 3D Printing Medicine Research Center and Everyoung BioDimension shared their thoughts on the 3D Medical Center Construction Plan, and 3D Printing Medicine Regulations. The China Medical University Hospital 3D Printing Medicine Research Center is quite mature in its staff, equipment, layouts and procedures. They set a good example for other medical organizations who are looking into having their own 3D printing centers. The Medical Design Workshop is working with 3D medical software developer Materialise, and many doctors benefited from participating in the 3D Medical Design Module. There were also vendors exhibiting 3D medical software solutions, different kinds of realistic tissue models, medical equipment, etc. Doctors can have more simulation opportunities before surgeries, and provide services that better meet patient needs. Most 2D medical images are now meticulous 3D models. This trend is a great start for the collaboration between makers and medicine.