3D printed composite materials for craniofacial implants: current concepts, challenges and future directions

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Millions of craniofacial surgeries are performed annually worldwide for craniofacial bones’ replacement and augmentation. This represents a significant economic burden as well as aesthetic expectations. Autografts and allografts are the first choice for treatment of craniofacial defects; however, their limited availability and difficulty to shape have led to investigation for alternative strategies. Biomaterial-based approaches have been used for implantation as they have ample supply but their processing through conventional technologies present several drawbacks; the major one relates to the poor versatility towards the production of patient-specific implants. Additive manufacturing has gained considerable attention during the last decade, as it allows the manufacturing of implants according to patient need. Biomaterial implants can be additively manufactured but have one or more limitations of stress shielding, radiopacity, high strength to weight ratio and limited bone integration. Over the last few decades, composites are investigated to surmount the limitations with traditional implants and also improve their bone integration. This review provides an overview of the most recent polymeric composite-based biomaterials that have been used in combination with 3D printing technology for the development of patient-specific craniofacial implants. Starting with the conventional treatments, biomaterials available for the craniofacial implants, the additive manufacturing rationale are discussed. Also, the main challenges still associated with 3D printing of polymer-based composites are critically reviewed and the future perspective presented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-653
Number of pages19
JournalThe International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology
Early online date3 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • 3D printing
  • Additive manufacturing
  • Composite materials
  • Craniofacial implants


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