Three NC State researchers have used a new electron beam freeform fabrication
process to produce the first solid or fully dense metal bone
implants ever made through that process. The accomplishment of Drs. Denis
Cormier and Ola Harrysson of the Department of Industrial Engineering,
and Dr. Denis Marcellin-Little, an orthopedic surgeon at the College of
Veterinary Medicine, is not just a prototype, but a functional solid metal
implant designed to precisely
fit a patients existing bone.
Previous models, such as knee implants, produced by freeform fabrication
(FFF) have been made of non-metals, and used only for visualization, planning,
and practice for complex orthopedic proceduresnot as implants. In
contrast, this metal product could be safely implanted in a patient,
Formerly known as rapid prototyping, FFF uses slices of computerized
three-dimensional images of an object to direct an electron beam that
deposits successive layers of titanium or steel until a copy of the computer
model is produced.
In the past, orthopedic surgeons have worked with bone plate that
you couldnt design or that you couldnt manufacture to the
right shape and size, added Marcellin-Little. Now were
working with metals that can be customized and are good for biocompatibility.
The size, thickness, length, and shape of that implant would be adjusted
to fit the particular problem and the specific geometry and biology of
that patient, he said. The implant will be more ergonomically
and biomechanically appropriate and stable.
Marcellin-Little anticipates that the first clinical application will
most likely be the use of titanium bone plates for complex orthopedic
repairs or bone deformities in dogs. The three researchers agree, though,
that the ultimate use will be for dogs best friend.
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