Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute of Laser Technology in Aachen have devised a method for making made-to-measure, porous bone implants from degradable materials using a laser melting technology.
An alternative to titanium implants, degradable implants are intended to replace the missing pieces of bone only until the fissure closes itself up. That may last months or even years, depending on the size of the defect, the age and health status of the patient. A new implant improves the conditions for the healing process and emerged from the Resobone project of the federal ministry for education and research.
"Its precision fit and perfect porous structure, combined with the new biomaterial, promise a total bone reconstruction that was hitherto impossible to achieve," says Ralf Smeets of the University Medical Center of Aachen.
Instead of a solid mass, precise little channels permeate the implant at intervals of just a few hundred micrometers. The porous canals create a lattice structure which the adjacent bones can grow into. Its basic structure consists of the synthetic polylactide (PLA). The stored granules from tricalcium phosphate (TCP) ensure rigidity and stimulate the bone's natural healing process.
The unique material and structure are made possible through a manufacturing process developed at ILT for the development of industrial prototypes, Selective Laser Melting (SLM). This technique utililizes a razor-thin laser beam to melt the pulverized material layer by layer to structures that may be as delicate as 80 to 100 micrometers.
Fraunhofer Press Release