Dec 4, 2018 | By Cameron

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films have developed a method of 3D printing that uses plasma jets to promote bone integration with 3D printed implants.

Traditional medical implants have improved the lives of countless people, and yet, it’s hard to believe they work at all. Those implants are either not customizable or are very expensive to customize because they’re made of injection-molded or machined parts. People, on the other hand, are very different from one another. Putting one-size-fits-all parts in people of different sizes and shapes obviously results in some complications, such as infection, discomfort, and rejection. So it makes sense that medical professionals have been drawn to the affordability and customization offered by 3D printing, especially when it comes to 3D printing bone.

Most bone implants are treated with a chemical coating that encourages bone growth; the implant serves as a scaffold and is eventually enveloped by bone, though the implant remains. With the technique out of Fraunhofer IST, a jet of cold amino-containing plasma is blown onto each layer extruded by the 3D printer. By infusing the entire implant with a bone-friendly substrate, the rate of growth is (hypothetically) accelerated while the risk of rejection is reduced. Infection can also be thwarted by adding antibiotics to the mix.

The implant scaffold is also 3D printed in a copolymer that dissolves over time, as explained by Dr. Jochen Borris, head of the Life Science and Ecology business unit at Fraunhofer IST, “Our goal is for the bone cells to grow into the synthetic structure as quickly as possible and finally replacing the implant which is broken down gradually by the body's own enzymes."

Certain fillers are incorporated to increase the stiffness of the implant according to what type of bone is being repaired. "This development by our project partners from Maastricht University makes it possible to individually vary the stability inside the implant. Like natural bones, implants can now have areas with different strengths," says Dr. Thomas Neubert, manager of the EU project at Fraunhofer IST.

Pulling something off in a lab is only the first step to getting such a discovery into the hands (literally) of those that need it. "We're currently working on simplifying the process and making it more stable. To be able to further pursue development and carry out clinical studies, we're on the search for industrial partners," says Borris.

One doesn’t have to subscribe to the philosophy that every individual is as unique as a snowflake (which, by the way, snowflakes aren't) to understand that people are not all the same; 3D printing is allowing the implant field of medicine to catch up with that reality by providing bespoke solutions that fit better, cost less, and are safer.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



Maybe you also like:


Ed Eaglehouse wrote at 12/4/2018 5:35:29 PM:

Amazing that the plasma doesn't melt the implant material! Must be some tough stuff.

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to Feeds twitter facebook   

About 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