Jan 3, 2017 | By Julia

Researchers from the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway) have partnered with UK-based additive manufacturing company 3T RPD to develop a highly innovative 3D printed bone implant.

Spearheaded by NUI Galway’s Biomechanics Research Centre, the sophisticated surface architecture of the orthopaedic implant – comprised of hundreds of tiny titanium claws – grants improved fixation and in-growth, ultimately leading to an increased implant lifetime as compared to traditional bone implants.

Despite being a marvel of modern science, orthopaedic implants, at least in their current stage, have some serious limitations. Inadequate fixation to the original bone, both short- and long-term, is one such concern, since a poorly fixated implant can lead to the loosening, and ultimately failure of the implant.

Findings by NUI Galway researchers suggest that surface coatings currently being used for bone implants – either porous tantalum or plasma sprayed coatings – may be to blame. These surface coatings generally rely on friction between the implant and bone as the means of achieving primary fixation, which in many cases is not enough to secure long-term functioning. Better fixation in the immediate or primary stages of the implant would lead to a more effective long-term bone in-growth, and essentially a longer lifespan for the implant.

The NUI Galway team approached 3T RPD for engineering a solution by means of 3D printing. Together, they developed OsteoAnchor technology, a potentially revolutionary surface architecture for bone implants featuring hundreds of tiny claws.

During implantation, the claw architecture gently but securely embeds into the patient’s host bone, resulting in improved primary fixation and resistance to micromotions once the patient starts walking again. A network of interconnected pores underneath the claws ensures proper in-growth of hard bone, and excellent long-term fixation.

Studies by the OsteoAnchor team show that the 3D printed technology provides vastly increased resistance to transverse motion: up to 74% greater than porous tantalum and 246% greater than plasma sprayed coatings. In layman’s terms, OsteoAnchor provides much greater primary fixation than the other technologies currently available on the market.

The success of the new surface architecture could blow the door wide open for applications of 3D printing in the world of osteo-based technology. As the OsteoAnchor project details, such a complex surface design could not be achieved by any other production process.

Moreover, the one-step nature of 3D printing means that the implant surface’s complex claw architecture was built integrally with the implant core. The simplified manufacturing process should mean much lower production costs.

Following several years of extensive testing that commenced in 2013, the OsteoAnchor technology received its US and EU patents this year. NUI Galway has announced it is now in talks with several different organizations to facilitate commercialization, meaning we can expect the implant to hit commercial markets sooner versus later.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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