Researchers from CSIRO, working in conjunction with Australian dental company Oventus, use 3D scanning technology to map the patient's mouth, meaning that the 3D-printed mouthpieces can be customised to each individual patient.
Printed from titanium and coated in medical-grade plastic, the insert has a 'duckbill' shape with two separate airways allowing air to flow unimpeded through to the throat. It is expected to become available to patients next year, helping the millions of people who suffer from sleep apnoea episodes, in some cases up to hundreds of times a night.
"The possibilities of 3D printing are endless and the fact that we can now design and print a completely customised mouthpiece for patients is revolutionary," said CSIRO 3D printing expert John Barnes.
"It's an exciting prospect for people suffering from the debilitating disorder and the design offers significant benefits which cannot be achieved with more traditional manufacturing techniques."