Entrepreneur Jason Laing and his team are building a medical 3D printing business based on his personal success in overcoming horrific injuries. It made sense for ProMake international to capitalise on Greater Manchester’s strengths in health innovation and advanced materials along with the collaborative mind set Manchester has.

Jason Laing knows better than most the benefits of advances in materials science and healthcare innovation.

Having suffered horrific life-changing injuries in a 2015 cycling accident, he became the subject of a personal experiment in the use of 3D printing for medical purposes.

Using 3D printing technology, Jason and his team were able to design, manufacture and repair parts of his body, saving his arm from the risk of amputation.

3D printing and virtual reality also helped with his occupational therapy and mental rehabilitation where he re-learned how to walk, talk, read and write all over again due to the head injury he also suffered.

Jason’s journey has been documented through a TED Talk he did not long after his accident after learning to talk properly and memorising his speech.

That experience underpins the work of 3D printing healthcare manufacturing business, ProMake International Ltd, which established headquarters in Manchester in 2019 and is now being rebranded as ProMake LTD.

Through its advanced and unique product design, expertise in composite materials and progressive 3D printing technologies, the company assists inventors in developing and launching innovative products into global markets, particularly in the life science and aerospace industries.

Following Jason’s successful recovery, ProMake’s team have fully transitioned their expertise into the medical field by conducting facial reconstruction surgery using 3D printing.

In 2019, they completed the world’s very first inner ear transplant surgery to improve hearing by harmonically tuning the 3D printed Implant with a patient’s harmonics, as captured on video.

Since then, the ProMake team has also recently discovered that graphene – a 2D material first isolated in Manchester – is proving to be an even better medical solution for reconstructive surgery.

In leading their business from Manchester, they have been able to turn graphene into a functional form for their pioneering work by developing a unique way of 3D printing graphene polymers.

To support this application ProMake under agreements have been working with experts from Haydale and the University of Manchester’s Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), which was funded in part by the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership.

COO and Co-Founder of ProMake Ltd, Jason says that his journey into 3D printing began with his experience as a jeweller, which included research into metallurgy, composite technology and computer-aided design.

That led him to work alongside his business partner Gavin Leggott along with maxillofacial surgeons, orthopaedics and veterinary care, merging that experience to develop innovative new healthcare solutions.

He discovered first-hand how they could work when a Pro-Am cycling accident left him with multiple injuries, including broken bones, dislocations, collapsed lungs and open fractures where bones broke through his skin.

Faced with the prospect of having an arm amputated, Jason says he worked with the surgical team to find ways that 3D printing might help.

He said: “We really took it to a new level because I also then gave full permission to take my life in my own hands essentially, and take the risk so that we can pioneer new developments that would then be used for medical research further on. So that’s where 3D printing really came to play for me.

“3D printing itself excites me because of the possibilities that it can bring about, and what it has done for me already.

“The technology itself has not only given me a career but actually gave me my life back. And it helped me rebuild my own body. So now we are going to be able to take that technology, the research that we did on me as a patient and as a technician, and now be able to give that information back.”

Jason says he is excited about the impact this work can deliver on a social level as well as a corporate level, meaning that patients will benefit too. The move to Manchester means access to research at the cutting edge of advanced materials in a city region renowned for health innovation and where people work well together.

He adds: “3D printing with graphene is a major game-changer. The 3D printing technology has not only rebuilt my own body but now as we also fuse this technology with graphene, we continue to unravel endless possibilities for medical innovation. We have recently introduced the world’s first accessible commercial graphene 3D printing portal.

“Collaborating, experimenting and sharing ideas for greater Humanity is at the heart of ProMake’s ethos and that’s why Manchester – alongside it being the home of graphene – is the perfect fit for our innovation mindset.

“We want to sit alongside MedTech professionals locally and in all corners of the globe, and by working closely with unique scientific talent at the GEIC and along with our industrial partners such as Haydale within an ecosystem renowned for its long history of international engagement, we feel this is easily within our reach.”

Working with the GEIC – through the Bridging The Gap programme, which is backed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) –  has elevated ProMake’s journey of discovery and they are now also realising the amazing benefits of 3D printing with graphene for external prostheses.

Graphene provides additional strength, superior thermal properties and enhances biocompatibility when added to biopolymers.

Looking ahead, the company has already begun to unearth the possibilities of 4D printing which would enable them to programme materials to function in a certain way before they print e.g. anti-microbial, sensory, Electric and hydro.

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated how rapidly we can evolve under pressure and ProMake is a great example of a business that is grasping this opportunity to challenge the status quo and move with pace to deliver real change for the benefit of all.

Find out more about graphene and 2D material here.

A version of this story was published on the Invest In Manchester website.

Entrepreneur Jason Laing at TEDxJohannesburg

Worlds First 3D printed Inner Ear Transplant