3D printing titanium plates to suit - but are they as good?

We’re please to announce the funding of two new studies from the March 2023 application round. the first of these will be of particular interest to veterinarians with an interest in orthopaedic surgery. Dr Andrew Worth has been funded to assist the completion of his project looking into the Biomechanical equivalency of 3D printed titanium bone plates.

Internal fixation using titanium bone plates is a standard method of providing stability to allow a fracture to heal. Commercially available titanium plates are press manufactured from a billet first reduced from a titanium ore. In medical application both pure titanium and titanium alloys are utilised.

Laser sintering is a form of rapid prototype manufacturing (also called 3D printing) in which a laser melts titanium alloy powder to form a structure from a computer generated data file using a topographic working surface. This computer aided design allows a plate to be custom made for any application.

In order to design a plate of sufficient strength for a patient specific application a comparison to available equivalents is desired. The actual loading on any given device in-situ is only an approximation based on biomechanical modelling.

Surgical guidelines are available which relate the animals mass to the available plate sizes. These guidelines only relate to the testing of plates manufactured using billet and press production, not rapid prototyping. Therefore before 3D printed plates can be recommended for use in patients it is vital to ascertain the equivalence of these implants to standard plate recommendations based on patient mass.

This data is not available for laser sintered plates as manufactured in NZ and elsewhere so this project will be of value not only here in NZ, but also for orthopaedic surgeons worldwide.