Canada’s first 3D medical printing lab launched

Dr Frank RybickiTen days after seeking out Dr. Frank Rybicki (pictured) on Twitter and asking him for a 3D printed hand, David Chasse was finally able to not only use his left hand, but gain his independence. “I haven’t been able to grab a water bottle normally in such a long time,” the Renfrew resident said after Rybicki helped strap the dark green prosthetic hand created in the Ottawa Hospital’s new 3D printing lab, which officially launched on Feb. 3, making it the first hospital-based, multi-department medical 3D printing program in Canada.

As a crowd at the hospital’s General campus-based Rehabilitation Centre watched, Chasse flicked his wrist to close his new fingers around the bottle and pick it up, to applause and cheers.

Chasse, 33, lost four fingers on his left hand in a motorcycle accident in June 2015.

Almost a year and a half after the accident, he was fitted with a small glovelike prosthetic. Instead of fingers, it has a short, wide hook.

Chasse began looking into 3D printing because his insurance company refused to pay for a better fitting replacement. He reached out to Rybicki on Twitter after seeing his online videos about 3D-printer technology.

Within a week and a half, his new hand was crafted by the hospital’s new printer.

The hospital’s printing lab has been 18 months in the making under the leadership of Rybicki, the Ottawa Hospital’s chief of medical imaging and chair of radiology at the University of Ottawa. He was recruited to come to Ottawa in 2015 from Boston where he long worked in face transplantation involving the use of 3D printing.

“People said that it was a medical miracle,” said Rybicki. His message, however, is that it’s no longer a miracle.

“3D printing and helping patients … is really becoming something that we can do every day with the right people, the right technology and the right dedication,” he said.

He recalled the first cellphones, which were “big and klunky.” Despite this, “we knew that that was the future,” he said. The hospital’s new 3D printer, which is the about the size of an oversized office photocopier, is on the cutting edge, just as the first cellphones were.

“We’re holding the very first cellphone in Canada, and I think that’s the way you should think about this,” said Rybicki.

The in-house technology will allow surgeons to practice on models for highly complex cases, as well as to further research advancements and develop prosthetics. The goal is to reduce the need for invasive surgery and lengthy anesthetics, improve patient outcomes and save money.

For instance, Chasse’s 3D-printed hand cost about $300 and took 13 hours to print out.

“The overall printer technology is in the order of $300,000 but the savings, every time that you make a model as opposed to milling something (like a complex prosthetic), can be anywhere from a tenth of the price to half the price,” Rybicki said. “The machines pay for themselves in operating room time quickly.”

The hospital is already eyeing next steps, including one day purchasing the technology that can print titanium bone plates that can be implanted in patients, similar to what’s already being done at a few U.S. hospitals, but not in Canada – yet.

“What we are doing now is the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Adnan Sheikh, the hospital’s chief of radiology. “It also won’t be long before organs, such as kidneys and livers, as well as heart valves, can be printed and implanted, a much-needed capability amid an aging population and given the often long waits for donated organs.”

For more information, visit

Source: Ottawa South News