Built-to-Order Artificial Bones

Artificial Jaw Bone photo

In the past decades, we’ve all heard about the progress made in organ transplant science and in the therapeutic cloning field, but advances in artificial bones have rarely made waves.

Bones are very light but nonetheless able to withstand extremely heavy loads. The inside of a bone is like a sponge. It is particularly firm and compact in certain places, and very porous in others. […]

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Applied Materials Research developed a simulation program that calculates the internal structure and density distribution of the bone material. […]

Engineers can produce complex components with the aid of rapid prototyping technology. This involves coating a surface with wafer-thin layers of special metal powder [made of biomaterials such as titanium and steel alloys]. A laser beam heats – or sinters – the powdered metal in the exact places that need to be firm. […]

“The end product is an open-pored element,” explains [Andreas] Burblies. “Each point possesses exactly the right density and thus also a certain stability.” The method allows the engineers to produce particularly lightweight components – customized for each application – that are also extremely robust.

Of course, the ultimate goal is to replace bones as rarely as possible, and in the long-run that can probably be accomplished with complete rejuvenation therapies (how many people in their 30s need to have bones replaced?), but until we get there and for special cases, the best alternative is to swap out those worn out knees for the best reproductions possible.

And while we’re at it, why not replace bones with superior artificial bones. Lighter, stronger, etc. No reason to limit ourselves to what evolution gave us.

Sources: Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Science Daily.

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