Digitally Manufactured Bone Implants
We are used to digital manufacturing techniques for making stuff that goes outside the body. But what happens when you have a hole in your head? Research coming out of Germany recently announced the development of a breakthough system for producing degradable bone implants, particularly for filling bone defects in craniofacial surgery. The technique uses a scan of the affected area and then selective laser melting (SLM) to create a perfectly fitting implant. The implant is made from “Resobone”, a porous material that adjacent bone can grow into and is then absorbed as the surrounding bone grows.
One particular advantage of this process is that it can be mere hours between obtaining imaging of the patient’s anatomy to having an implant ready to go. Precision is achieved through computer tomography of the patient, and the SLM laser that is able to be manipulated down to accuracies within 80-100 micrometers. This is the first time that custom fitting degradable implants have been successfully demonstrated.
What does this mean for the patients?
- - fewer operations
- - faster procedures
- - reduced recovery times
- - eliminate the need to exchange long-term implants (particularly for growing children)
So, from the bare-bones DIY basics to the latest laser technology – digital manufacturing continues to push the boundaries. Much has changed since our last post on bone implants and printed skulls. Who knows, perhaps other projects such as the laser cut brain will someday inspire even more intricate manufactured implants.