Stratasys enhanced its J750 printer to enable printing ultra-realistic bone models, which may be used in biomedical training and research. The printer can now mimic porous bone structures, fibrotic tissue, and ligaments so medical professionals can create models that behave just like human bone. The company has relied heavily on clinical research to enhance its product.
The Digital Anatomy printer was first introduced a year ago, with an initial focus on mimicking soft cardiology tissues, such as hearts and blood vessels, using powerful Digital Anatomy software and materials like GelMatrix and TissueMatrix. The technology has helped healthcare providers improve surgical preparedness and medical device makers to conduct testing and train medical professionals on new devices. BoneMatrix material with the enhanced software capabilities extends those benefits to orthopedic applications.
Despite the high demand for bone models, traditional model options have serious shortcomings. The medical industry has traditionally used human bone from cadavers, or legacy 3D printing solutions, all of which have proven inadequate. Human bone is expensive, difficult to obtain, and hard to acquire with the precise pathology characteristics needed, such as with tumours or reflecting different ages. Off-the-shelf manufactured bone models also lack those patient-specific characteristics, and other traditional 3D printing solutions are bio-mechanically unrealistic. In contrast, whether inserting a screw or drilling or sawing a bone, medical professionals can expect haptic feedback from Digital Anatomy models that is very realistic, and each model can be created from an actual patient scan.
3D-printed skull and spine models for physician training workshops allow doctors to practice cutting and drilling bones, said a medical director at a children’s hospital in Florida. Her focus has been on using state-of-the-art simulation to transform pediatric training and education. “The opportunities seem endless to me because doctors can ‘operate before they operate. “It’s going to decrease surgical time, it’s going to decrease morbidity and mortality, and help us decrease anesthesia time, which is better for brain development.”
While the 3D printer is itself cutting-edge technology, it’s the Digital Anatomy software that unlocks the printer’s power. More than 100 sophisticated presets have been developed and refined through years of expert testing, in partnership with top academic medical centers and hospitals around the world. For example, intervertebral discs can be printed normal or degenerated. The joints between vertebrae can be printed in varying degrees of stiffness. The denser structure of skull bone is differentiated from general bones. Long bones can be printed with varying amounts of marrow. Different combinations of materials are produced at a 3D voxel level to ensure the right bio-mechanical properties.
Researchers at the Computational Mechanics and Experimental Biomechanics Lab at Tel Aviv University conducted a clinical evaluation of the characteristics of bone models that were 3D printed on the Digital Anatomy system, specifically focusing on how accurately they replicated screw pull-out force and driving torque using cortical and cancellous screws. The 2020 study concluded that orthopedic screws pull-out force in the 3D-printed models had a similar haptic response to human cadaver bone.
A second study conducted this year by researchers at the Technion Institute of Technology’s Materials Science and Engineering Laboratory in Israel demonstrated the mechanical accuracy of 3D-printed spine models compared to cadaver spines. The study was able to demonstrate that the 3D-printed models of lumbar vertebrae accurately represented the range of motion compared to published literature on human spines.