Royal Academy of Engineering recognises 3D printed bone as marvel of modern engineering


The role of engineering in healthcare has been highlighted by the Royal Academy of Engineering as part of its campaign This is Engineering to raise awareness of the breadth of careers in engineering, and help address the significant engineering skills and diversity shortfall in the UK.

Research for This is Engineering revealed an almost complete lack of awareness amongst 11-18 year olds of the existence of engineering jobs in healthcare and other fields. As part of the campaign, a panel of the Academy’s young engineers along with a range of experts compiled a list of the Seven Wonders of the 21st Century. The list demonstrates the breadth of engineering’s impact, and the broad role it plays in everyday life. Amongst the entries is 3D-printed bone implants.

Using 3D printing technology, custom structures and scaffolds can be made from ceramics similar to natural bone. The latest implants are bioactive, encouraging bone regrowth and enabling the bone to integrate with the implant. These techniques are already in use for surgery on areas like the jaw and face, and it also possible to inject bioactive ceramics into larger, load-bearing bones to help them heal.

“Engineering plays an essential part in everyday life, from the water we drink to the gadgets we use, and it’s also vital to addressing the challenges of the future. However, our survey shows that many young people don’t associate engineering with the technology they yse day to day, and the things they’re interested in, which could mean they miss out on the opportunities to change the world as an engineer. We hope our list of surprising, 21st Century engineering wonders will inspire today’s teenagers and give them new opportunities”, said Professor Mark Miodownik, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.