3D printers are for more than just printing out dollhouses and baseball bats. They’re also for saving lives. Kaiba Gionfriddo is one example.
Kaiba was born with a deadly illness that made it almost impossible for him to breathe.
Those who suffer from tracheomalacia have a weak trachea (windpipe). The U.S. National Library of Medicine states that “congenital tracheomalacia generally goes away on its own by the age of 18-24 months.”
But Kaiba’s case of tracheomalacia was unusual and deadly. His trachea was so weak, the walls would cave in and completely block his breathing. Initially, doctors predicted he would not survive long. They were wrong.
Based on a CAT scan, the engineers produced a 3D model of Kaiba’s trachea and bronchi. This way, they were able to create a 3D-printed splint that was just the right size. The splint was made out of a biodegradable material.
What the engineers did was an experiment. They still weren’t sure that the 3D splint would save him.
In fact, while the team of engineers had been producing 3D implants for a while, they hadn’t used them on actual patients before. While Kaiba was able to go off his ventilator three weeks after the splint was implanted, the engineers and doctors had to ensure that the splint would still work and that even after it biodegraded, Kaiba would be able to breathe normally.