Bringing 3D printing to the next level for sustainable healing
Three dimensional or “3D printing” is an additive manufacturing process that has been around for a while now – but is still guaranteed to attract attention. It produces a physical object from a digital design, and it’s been creating a buzz in the healthcare industry since the 1990s when dental implants and custom prosthetics took off.
While there are many different types of 3D printing available, we at Osteopore have been able to harness the technological advantage that 3D printing has over traditional manufacturing techniques. This has enabled us to create a microstructure that is representative of native bone while meeting gross geometrical needs of the reconstruction area and facilitates technology differentiation from other medical implant providers.
Specifically, we harness the body’s regenerative capacity to rebuild lost tissues and the bioresorbable materials in our implants leverage the combined technologies of tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, and 3D printing techniques.
3D printing technology allows us to make world-leading regenerative implants. Our bioresorbable implant is the first of its kind to be successfully developed and commercialized for surgical use, and we see this technology as the way of the future for healthcare.
When used appropriately, we find the solutions created with 3D printing regularly outperform traditional implant methods in terms of design and associated long-term healthcare costs.
3D printing allows the creation of complex geometries that copy the shape and function of natural bone and allows efficient productization particularly in customised implants.
Given the complex nature of bone microarchitecture, it is not a matter of course that production can happen at cost effective scale – and 3D manufacturing gives us that option.
With improvements to technology, we can go down the path of automation, producing our implants around-the-clock and even remotely; there is a compelling commercial industrial argument for the technology alongside medical rationale and uniqueness of what is possible.
But most importantly for us, 3D printing is actually reshaping what implants can do, and how patients can be treated – often patient comfort and experience during recovery is improved.
Additive manufacturing’s role in the medical field continues to develop and mature, and while in some medical specialties the hype of 3D printing has gone down – the true value that 3D printing can provide to this field will be recognized once the industry understands and accepts the technology and its benefits.
The compelling argument for the technology is that it has the unique combination of being able to produce something as specific and particular as the biomimetic architecture at Osteopore, as well as its scalability at the same time.
From our perspective, 3D printing is consistent and reproducible. It allows us to be in a position that suggests we have considered the manufacturing of products at scale and that we can produce them in a way that meets quality standards.
So, let us look at a breakdown of 3D printing from Osteopore’s perspective.
Choice of 3D Printing
We use Fused Deposition Modelling, or Fused Filament Fabrication as it has been more recently called. This method of 3D printing is so far one of the most reliable and reproducible among other techniques, and hence is suited to producing our parts and design. In addition, the microstructure that we incorporate into our products can be consistently reproduced in good quality using this method. Also, the physical properties of parts produced by this method of 3D printing fit well with the needs of our application area.
What are the available products?
Our available products include Osteomesh, Osteoplug, and Osteoplug-C in various sizes. These are available off-the-shelf to allow surgeons quick access to products so that they can treat patients as soon as possible. In addition, we provide customized implants designed based on patient’s and surgeon’s treatment plan.
What are bone graft substitutes?
Traditionally, bone graft substitutes are derived from animal, cadaveric, or synthetic sources. They are used to fill bone voids in the skeletal system. Although their particulate nature allows them to fill irregularly sized bone voids easily, they do not provide structural support to the skeletal system. As a result, they are mostly used in smaller areas of bone loss, or in areas of lower stress activation.
Why is porosity necessary?
Porosity is a basic requirement for bone ingrowth and blood vessel ingrowth. It is also representative of the natural structure of bone: a highly porous and interconnected pore system. Without an interconnected pore system, bone tissue may consequently grow around the implant rather than through the implant – this may not lead to the intended outcomes of bridging and providing support to the skeletal system.
Are bones grafts substitutes porous?
They are in a way, but there is a substantial amount of variability depending on how they are packed into the bone void. If they are packed too tightly, the pores become compressed or are isolated, making them unamenable to ingrowth of tissue. If they are packed too loosely, it may not be ideal for bone formation.
How does 3D printing create consistent porosity?
3D printing with our microstructure allows us to define the pore spaces and reproduce them consistently. In this way, the consistency of providing open channels for bone and vessel ingrowth is guaranteed.
What is the largest implant Osteopore has printed?
The largest implant we have produced is 36cm in length and was implanted in an Australian patient in Queensland for a shin bone reconstruction surgery. He has since recovered well and is able to ambulate without crutches.
How 3D printing enables our implant to work?
The pillars of tissue engineering include scaffolds, cells, and growth factors. In our technology, we provide a scaffold that is bioresorbable and designed to allow cells and growth factors to be incorporated at the point of surgery. In our off-the-shelf products, cells and growth factors can grow into the scaffold structure due to the open pore system.
How does the Osteopore design facilitate bio-stimulation?
The combination of our choice of material, 3D printing technique, and pore design allows the scaffold to withstand some level of compression forces. This is important as it allows these forces to be transmitted to cells for them to experience appropriate levels of mechanical stimulation to aid in bone repair and growth.