Feb 2, 2018 | By David

A new 3D printing project that was recently announced in France has the potential to improve the lives of many of the millions of people around the world suffering from knee problems. Known as FollowKnee, the programme is being supported financially by the French national research agency (ANR), and will see the development of advanced prosthetic knee joints with the aid of 3D printing technology. A grant of 7.9 million Euros was awarded to fund this multi-disciplinary collaborative program, which could revolutionize knee surgery over the course of the next five years.

Based in the city of Brest in the north-west of the country, FollowKnee is a joint effort in more than one sense of the word ‘joint’, as it involves participation from seven different organizations and institutions as well as being focused on developing replacement knee joints. The knee is a part of the body that undergoes a lot of stress over a lifetime, and an increasing number of patients are now requiring surgery and prosthetics.

''Over the past 20 years, the number of prosthetic orthopaedic knee joints given to patients in France has increased by 20%, and this tendency shows no signs of reversing’’, said Professor Eric Strindel, head of the project and director of the Medical Information Treatment Laboratory (LaTIM), which is part of the French National Institute for Medical Health and Research (InSERM). "Younger patients no longer want to suffer in silence. They know that prosthetic joints work well and will enable them to play sport, go running or play golf again. And the obesity epidemic is worsening the problem of osteo-arthritis of knee. Every extra kilo you carry represents a far greater weight in terms of strain on the knee, which leads to wear and tear much more quickly."

FollowKnee’s new approach will make use of 3D scanning and printing techniques in order to create a better artificial knee joint design and develop a new approach to their production. The project will also implement other cutting-edge technologies to deal with any issues affecting the replacement surgery, the prosthetic device, and the patient’s recovery process. The 3D printing will be carried out by Rennes-based company SLS, known for producing ceramic dental fittings. The 3D printed artificial knee joint will be made of a ceramic-metal alloy.

Alongside high obesity levels, a population that is ageing was one of the key demographic motivations behind the establishment of FollowKnee.  Another factor that influenced the project was the unreliability that can affect many existing prosthetic knee implants, many of which do not stay fixed in place after surgery.

According to Strindel, "When a prosthetic joint fails to take, it is due to either a loosening of the bone because of certain constraints, or an infection. The patient can pick up information about their prosthetic joint – for example via their smartphone - and the physiotherapist can adapt the exercises to the results. Should there be any signs of infection, the patient can soon have that checked out, with the treatment being far more personalised."

Initially, during the first three years of the program, 220 3D printed prosthetic knee joints will be installed by FollowKnee’s team of surgeons. They will also install around 30 of the special sensors, which are designed to track the condition of the prosthetic and detect any problems. Produced by CEA (French Atomic Energy Commission) Grenoble, these sensors will primarily be installed in younger patients, so their performance can be recorded over a long period of time. After five years, the goal is to have a marketable product that has been clinically certified. Imascap will be in charge of the marketing efforts, as well as creating the 3D models and maintaining the associated database.

Augmented reality will be part of the project, in order to help surgeons out with planning their procedures and installing the 3D printed knee joints. Bordeaux-based AR expert Immersion will be in charge of developing this aspect of FollowKnee, making use of Microsoft HoloLens equipment as well as its own Shariiing platform.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive