Garrett Peterson was born with a defective windpipe that left his trachea very weak leaving him unable to breathe normally. The condition was called tracheomalacia. The Petersons contacted Dr. Green and Dr. Hollister from the University of Michigan’s 3-D Printing Lab. Their goal was to create a 3-D device made out of plastic and metal to hold open Garrett’s windpipe until it is able to work on its own. First, they took a CT scan of his windpipe to create a 3-D replica of it. They then used a 3-D printer to design and build a splint, which is a small, white, flexible tube tailored to fit around his windpipe. FDA never approved the device, but Garrett’s condition was so critical that they implanted the splint regardless. Garrett’s splint is designed to expand as he grows and eventually dissolve in his body as his own windpipe gets strong enough to work normally. After the surgery, Garrett began to breathe normally and regain his strength. The splint saved his life.
Doctors and engineers like Green and Hollister are continually working on creating other 3-D printing devices to build more body parts, such as noses and ears. I think this story is amazing and really shows us how far technology can advance and save lives.