Johnson & Johnson Wants to Use 3D Printing to Heal Broken Bones

Hip Prosthesis, Surgery X-rays
Hip Prosthesis, Surgery X-rays (Photo by: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)
Photograph by BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

ThereDePuy Synthes Products, Inc., an arm of pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), is setting out to use 3D printed bones to fix injuries and deformities.

The bone health-focused J&J unit has snapped up 3D printing tech from Tissue Regeneration Systems, Inc. (TRS). The platform is able to create implantable bone-like structures that have a special type of coating that helps the body absorb them and use them to help heal injuries and deformities. It can be used in bones throughout the body, including the face and skull. J&J didn’t disclose the financial details for the deal.

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“We are systematically investing in building a pipeline of 3D printed products,” said DePuy company group chairman Ciro Römer in a statement. “The TRS technology, which will be added to the DePuy Synthes Trauma Platform, is the latest example of how we are working toward developing next-generation technologies that transform healthcare delivery with individualized solutions for patients.”

3D printing has been shaking up industries ranging from car makers to airline manufacturers like Boeing. The technology has the potential to significantly reduce costs and prevent excess scrap materials.

In medicine, it’s particularly exciting because 3D-printed materials can be molded to fit individual patients—rather than rely on standardized implant sizes that may be a rough match for a person’s body.

There are still challenges ahead, though, as Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, explained during a panel at Fortune‘s first annual Brainstorm Health conference last November. For one, the technology needs to be able to be scaled up dramatically while still keeping its personalized advantages.

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