3D printing technology has taken the world by storm. Objects that were previously confined in books and screens are slowly coming into existence with the help of this technology. The most impressive aspect of this technology is the fact that it has changed so many areas in the world. Day by day, it increasingly becomes clear that no other technology will literally shape the way man lives and operates in this world.
The world of medicine is one of those areas that have been profoundly affected by 3D printing technology. One can hear an almost daily news of 3D-printed medical devices that help save lives. Plus, the future offers limitless possibilities with each newly designed object through 3D printing technology.
This time around, the research and tests developed by a team from Nottingham Trent University are set to revolutionize the way the medical world treats bone implants. Currently, the process of bone implants utilizes what experts call as bone grafts. Bone grafts are currently used as forms of temporary structural supports or scaffolds to mend the broken or impaired bone of patients, including those suffering from cancer and other forms of degenerative diseases that affect the bones.
While the sources of the bone grafts may vary, they all work under the same principle of providing materials that the body can dissolve so the scaffold or structural support will soon be a normal part of the human body. 3D printing has already made a major breakthrough in this area as it now allows doctors to truly fit and customize the bone grafts to exact specifications. The issue facing 3D printing technology is facing is in the strength of the materials used as bone grafts.
The latest development, introduced by Nottingham Trent University researchers, works in the 3D-printed scaffolding materials by developing crystal structures at below zero environment. By doing this, the 3D printing of the scaffold becomes faster while the strength of the materials significantly improves. As the new bone grafts are still permeable without sacrificing strength and durability, these can be easily taken in by the body and effectively heal the bones of patients. Prior to this development, getting the right permeability for natural bone growth and healing to take effect and the scaffolds’ strength and durability were a never ending battle.
The breakthrough has successfully addressed lingering issues of perfect fit, density, and durability. Anything less than ideal could lead to several possibilities, all of which means that the patient will not be able to heal his or her bones as intended.
As impressive as the current results are, the future is even more staggering. With continuous research and development, this may even lead to the total removal of metal implants in the body. The nature of bone grafts, as it has been proven countless of times in the past, and with the help of 3D printing technology will see a future where implants can be naturally absorbed by the body.
The result of the research and development from the team of researchers from Nottingham Trent University was discussed in a forum called Printing for the Future held at the Institute of Physics in London, England.