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IIT-Madras’ Cutting-Edge 3D Printing for Facial Reconstruction

Image credits: iitmadras; X
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Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-Madras) have created 3D-printed face implants designed for individuals afflicted with black fungus. Approximately 50 implants have already been performed.

Additive manufacturing has proven to be a viable and cost-effective manufacturing method for producing complex body implants with customised designs, particularly in low-volume production, explained Dr Murugaiyan Amirthalingam, Associate Professor in the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering.

Image credits: iitmadras; X

IIT-Madras is actively engaged in extensive research to advance the commercialisation of this technology, focusing on printing patient-specific implants using materials such as stainless steel, Ti-6Al-4V, and Co-Cr-Mo alloys. The institute is collaborating with a startup in Chennai to execute the project, which is called #Right2Face.

What sets this initiative apart is the IIT-Madras team’s ability to precisely 3D print the implant to match the contours of the patients’ faces. Employing unique in-house algorithms, the patient’s MRI/CT data is converted into a printable CAD format, facilitating the production of custom implants. These implants are crafted from medical-grade titanium through an indigenously built laser powder bed facility at IIT-Madras.

The goal is to assist economically disadvantaged individuals affected by black fungus by providing patient-specific, custom maxillofacial implants. IIT-Madras is identifying patients who lack the financial means to afford expensive imported implants. These individuals are then provided with the necessary implants for free under #Right2Face. The startup with which IIT-Madras has collaborated is in charge of the surgical procedures, while IIT-Madras takes charge of the design process and 3D printing aspects.

The surge in cases of black fungus disease, scientifically known as ‘Mucormycosis,’ has raised significant alarm in India. It has been documented in COVID-19 patients and individuals with uncontrolled diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and various other medical conditions. Among the severe consequences of this illness is the loss of facial features, leading to profound impacts on the mental and emotional well-being of patients.

Addressing the reconstruction of faces affected by black fungus has become an urgent priority. Reports indicate that approximately 60,000 cases of mucormycosis have been documented in India in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fungus responsible for mucormycosis can invade the tissues of the face, causing necrosis and disfigurement. In critical instances, individuals may experience the loss of essential facial features such as the nose and eyes, or even the entire face. Moreover, the damage to vital organs can impede a patient’s capacity to breathe, eat, and communicate, posing challenges in performing everyday activities.

For individuals who have lost facial features due to black fungus disease, reconstructive surgery emerges as a viable solution. These interventions involve the reconstruction of the nose, eyes, and other facial structures, employing techniques like skin grafts, tissue expansion, and microvascular surgery. By undergoing these procedures, patients can regain both their appearance and functional abilities, enabling them to resume a more normal life.

However, the cost linked to patient-specific implants and procedures creates a significant financial barrier, rendering them inaccessible for people from weaker sections. Many of these patients, who are typically the primary earners for their families, now find themselves restricted to their homes due to facial deformities. The #Right2Face movement seeks to collaborate with oral and maxillofacial surgeons to assist these financially disadvantaged patients in restoring their facial features and returning smiles to their faces.


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