The story of how a 3D Printing orthopedic company came into existence
How It All Started: Mobelife (Materialize)
In October 2008 at 27-years-old, I was just finishing my PhD in biomedical engineering at KU Leuven and was looking for my next step. I had focused much of my doctorate research on patient-specific planning for cranio-maxillofacial surgery and my colleague Frederik was also finishing up his doctorate degree with a focus on patient-specific implants for orthopedics.
Frederik and I didn’t know quite what to expect when we pitched a new business idea to Materialise about implants that are perfectly adapted to a patient’s anatomy. We were already very familiar with Materialise’s image processing software Mimics, and we would even perform beta testing on new releases from time to time, but proposing a new business to be included in the Materialise Group is a whole different level.
We couldn’t have expected a better meeting. Materialise’s CEO Fried Vancraen was interested in the idea and soon enough, Mobelife became part of the Materialise Group. What we envisioned was to provide a solution, not only an implant. This means that we were starting with the patient image data through the image processing software Mimics and would then work in close consultation with the surgeon to create totally customized 3D-printed guides and implants, fitting the patient’s anatomy and individually evaluated by the use of patient-specific muscle modelling and simulation. After a two-and–a-half year research and development stage, we started offering laser-sintered guides and 3D-printed titanium implants.
Our mission is to bring the best of engineering together with the best of medical. We do this in four specific ways:
- Unique fit: Based on the patient’s CT scan, the guides and implants are customized for the patient’s bone anatomy.
- Personalized fixation: Our implants are adapted the patient’s individual bone quality, so that the screws are the right size for the patient’s bone and are placed in the most optimal direction.
- Individually evaluated: Our software lets our engineers simulate how the implant works in the patient, which takes the patient’s weight and muscular functions into account.
- Customized to the surgeon’s needs: Each surgeon has a particular way they like to approach an operation. We’ve integrated this into the implant design. Furthermore, surgical drilling guides are available for optimal screw placement.
Not only are we helping the patients whose bone situation is so severe that it can only be solved with customized implants, but it also helps the surgeons who are always facing difficult challenges in these cases. Complex surgeries are very difficult and add stress to the surgeon, and these solutions relieve some of that stress by helping the surgeons guide the surgery in advance.
Since our first case in 2011, we’ve helped surgeons for over 150 challenging revision and reconstruction operations in about 50 medical centers. By using 3D Printing, we are able to create strong parts with much less material, making porous structures that can naturally and organically integrate into the patient’s bony anatomy.
With the rise of personalized medicine, this approach is a great alternative for difficult orthopedic cases. Frederik and I didn’t know really what we could have imagined back in 2008, but we are both proud to be CEOs of Mobelife.
To find out more about Mobelife, please visit our website.