PKU Implants 3-D Printed Bones
Biloine W. Young • Wed, August 21st, 2013
The orthopedics department of Peking Third University, China, is printing bones with a 3-D printer and reporting good success when the bones are implanted into patients.
“We started the clinical trial to test those implants last year, and all the patients participating in the trial are recovering well,” says Liu Zhongjun, director of the department.
In cooperation with a Beijing medical device company that owns an imported 3-D printer, the hospital has produced dozens of hip replacements and artificial vertebral bodies. To date, more than 50 volunteer patients have tried the implants.
Liu believes that these tests are the first time that 3-D printed artificial vertebral bodies have been used in humans, although artificial vertebral bodies have been used in orthopedic surgeries for years.
The hospital uses titanium powder to print the implants. The 3-D printer is able to print titanium powder into any shape, as long as the computer that controls the printer has a digital model to follow. “In another words,” Liu explains, “the 3-D printed orthopedic implants can match better with the bones around them than can traditional ones. Besides, the tiny pores of the new implants, another feature of the 3-D device, enable bones to grow into the implants.
Liu’s team launched the program in 2009. The hospital provided designing, and the medical device company digitalized the design. In mid-2010, the department started trials on sheep, and in 2012, the team got permission from health authorities for human trials. Liu believes that, “Producing medical devices through 3-D printing saves time and materials, and thus the cost will be lower than traditional methods.”