Contact JustinProf Justin CobbChair in Orthopaedic Surgery

How 3D prints enhance the quality of life

With an ageing population joint disease is becoming an increasing issue. At the moment joint surgery uses pre-programmed surgical robots that, despite their accuracy, are incredibly expensive. By taking an interdisciplinary approach to this problem and bringing together neuroscientists, mathematicians, engineers and surgeons we are on the road to revolutionising joint replacement. In the future it will not only get cheaper – but the designs will be optimal for the patient and their needs.
"I'm curious about... how skeletal joints wear out, why they wear out and how we can stop that happening through using personalised, innovative medicine.Prof Justin Cobb


Prof Justin Cobb studied medicine at Magdalen College Oxford, graduating in 1982. He trained in Oxford, London and Brighton. In 1991 he was appointed consultant orthopaedic surgeon at The Middlesex. He was awarded a Hunterian Professorship in 1992. After 15 years as a consultant at UCLH and Hon Senior Lecturer at UCL, he joined Imperial as chair of orthopaedics in 2005. Cobb spends around half his time working at in the MSK Lab Charing Cross Hospital as an Orthopedic Surgeon and half his time as a researcher. 

In 1992 the special trustees of  The Middlesex, awarded his first grant, which led to the development, with Brian Davies, of Acrobot, the worlds first haptic based robotic assistant, which is now being sold in the USA by Stanmore Implants. Professor Cobb is a civilian advisor in orthopaedics to the Royal Air Force. He is on the staff of King Edward VII hospital for Officers, and is Orthopaedic Surgeon to Her Majesty the Queen.


Prof Justin Cobb, together with Alison McGregor, leads a group of more than 25 surgeons, physios, scientists and engineers who work on the same floor as the orthopaedic inpatient ward, translating their benchtop findings straight to the bedside and operating theatre of patients with musculoskeletal problems. His work focuses on developing innovative techniques for joint surgery and understanding the human skeleton in a non-interventionist way, from individual gait.

In a world first Professor Justin Cobb and his team at the MSK Lab are using a combination of 3D imaging, 3D printing and robotics to perform a minimally invasive repair on impaired joint function. Using these three techniques together ensures accuracy and a more cost effective surgery. This is paving the way to medical solutions that are finely tuned to the patient’s body and lifestyle.

  • How and why do people wear out? How can we stop this happening?
  • Can virtual surgery improve joint replacement?
  • How can modelling bone quality and joint shapes in early joint disease, predicting progression and aid the design of less invasive and better functioning devices?
  • How can 3D scanning and printing improve orthopaedic surgery?

Prof Justin Cobb's predictions from 2014




Within 5 Years

3D Printing of joints and surgical instruments will increase bringing the price of orthopaedic surgery down.


Within 10 years

The design of joints will become more bespoke to the patients’ needs.

Further reading

The MSk Lab is based at Imperial College Research Labs, Charing Cross Campus. They are a collaborative group specialising in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system.

Foresight and futures work

2034: Tech Foresight
The future of sensing and data-driven technologies

Profile Credits

Video: Alex Ayad, Tom Walker, Consider Creative