Jul 11, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers at the Institute of Production Engineering and Machine Tools (IFW) at Germany’s Leibniz University of Hannover have created a metal 3D printed bone drill that can cut bone without causing thermal-induced osteonecrosis.

Thinking about it might make your skin crawl, but it is occasionally necessary for surgeons to penetrate human bone with a drill. Sound nasty? It can be, especially if the drill reaches around 48°C, at which point the heat of the drill can lead to thermal-induced osteonecrosis, killing off bone tissue.

Unfortunately, keeping drills cool via traditional means is tricky. Surgeons can’t use a conventional cooling system that applied coolant to the surface of the drill, since cooling fluids could leak into the wound. So they generally do something a little more basic: stopping and starting the procedure to stop the temperature getting too high.

Now, engineers at the Institute of Production Engineering and Machine Tools (IFW) at Germany’s Leibniz University of Hannover might have found a better way to keep drill temperatures down.

By 3D printing a metal drill with an internal cooling system, the engineers think bone-drilling procedures could be carried out without interruption, and without raising the temperature of the drill above 48°C.

The new 3D printed drill contains internal cooling ducts which allow a coolant to flow safely within the tool—along the helix of the drill and back to the tool holder—without ever coming into contact with parts of the patient’s body. A coolant tank and pump provides a steady flow of the coolant around the drill.

With a diameter of 6 mm, the prototype 3D printed drill has been modeled on a conventional bone drill, meaning its functionality is largely the same. The big difference, of course, is how long surgeons can use it for without it heating up too much. The internal ducts have a diameter of 1.2 mm, and move the thermal energy away from the cutting edge.

The complex 3D printed drill was designed by engineering company Schmidt WFT using CAD and simulation software, and was eventually fabricated on a metal 3D printer in 1.4404, a biocompatible stainless steel. Machining was then carried out to bring the tool down to its final size.

Practical testing of the 3D printed bone drill was performed by the Hanover engineers. Using water as a coolant and both artificial and cow bones as their test subjects, the engineers measured the temperature of the drill as it was used.

They found that the 3D printed drill works at temperatures up to 70 percent lower than a drill without an internal cooling system, proving the success of their project. They even believe that the 3D printed cooling ducts could be implemented into other tools, such as saws.

The research project was carried out in collaboration with German company toolcraft, and was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy as part of the Central Innovation Programme for SMEs (ZIM).

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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