Patients will have personalized 3D-printed finger joints developed by AI

This is a revolutionary development, especially for patients who cannot use their fingers.
Nergis Firtina
The FingerKIt implants are produced using special 3D printing processes which enable a high level of detail and different surface qualities.
The FingerKIt implants are produced using special 3D printing processes which enable a high level of detail and different surface qualities.

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft 

German research organization Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has been working for a long time on personalized finger joint implants from a 3D printer by using AI technology. Thanks to the FingerKit project, a 3D-printed joint could help restore the mobility of damaged fingers.

Finger joints can be damaged due to various diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, or some sports activities. Those with injured joints may have to deal with much pain and suffering. To prevent this, FingerKit's novel development will provide finger parts that can be replaced when necessary, according to a press release by the organization.

Patients will have personalized 3D-printed finger joints developed by AI
Hand xrays showing advanced rheumatoid arthritis.

How was the process?

Fraunhofer's Institution for Additive Manufacturing (IAPT), Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS), Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine (ITEM), Institute for Mechanics of Materials (IWM), and the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Medicine (MEVIS) collaborated and came up with the FingerKit project which enables, for the first time, a continuous automatable process chain in the creation of patient-specific implants from design through certification-compliant testing.

As part of the project, Fraunhofer MEVIS and the IWM are initially developing a model based on a 3D image of the damaged joint that can be created from 2D X-ray data. In the future, this will eliminate the cost-intensive and stressful diagnostic procedure of CT scans.

The models developed will then be used at the IWM to simulate the biomechanical requirements of the individually adapted implants. On the basis of this work, the IAPT first creates an initial design of the implant and then trains an algorithm to automatically generate individual implant designs from the available simulation data.

The IKTS develops appropriate oxide or nitride ceramic materials to achieve increased biocompatibility and osseointegration and, consequently, an improved adaptation of the implant to the original joint properties, while the IAPT focuses on the process development of binder-based manufacturing technologies for titanium model materials. Along with the IWM and IKTS, the ITEM is in charge of continuing to validate implant qualities and is creating new in-vivo models for these components and specifications.

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Could it be a novel treatment?

This is a revolutionary development, especially for patients who cannot use their fingers. "The Fraunhofer innovations mean that, in the future, it will be possible to provide effective treatment even for complicated cases such as severely bent fingers, missing bone parts, or very small joints," says the organization.

In addition, Fraunhofer also said the personalized production process is much more rapid than usual thanks to automated model creation and 3D printing. Initial calculations by the researchers indicate that it would be able to cut the time generally needed from determining the necessity for an implant to placing it in the patient by up to 60 percent.

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