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Research centre manufactures 3D-printed finger joints

Research centre manufactures 3D-printed finger joints

A German research organisation has manufactured artificial finger joints for people who have limited control over their joints.

When a finger joint is severely damaged or weakened by a condition such as arthritis the most common procedure recommended by doctors is fusing it together, but in doing so some or all the digits can lose their dexterity.

But a team at Fraunhofer research group has managed to create custom 3D-printed finger joints to replace the broken joints so patients can regain their movement.

Artificial finger joints are nothing new, they have been around for a while, but Fraunhofer says the silicone implants can become loose and need to be surgically reattached. The standard implants only come in specific sizes which do not restore a full range of movement.

To tackle these hurdles Frauhofer has designed what they call the FingerKit project.

The initiative sees patients having the damaged finger X-rayed. Custom AI-based software then analyses the two-dimensional images which are used to produce a 3D computer model for an artificial joint specifically designed to the finger.

The 3D printer is then guided by the model which builds the actual titanium implant which is constructed layer by layer in a printing process known as metal binder jetting using a liquid binder to a titanium-particle powder.

This is all well and good - but the product is pretty flimsy, it would snap fairly easily - so the object undergoes a sintering process which transforms the bonded particles into a more secure, stronger solid piece of metal.

Another bonus is patients could be fitted with the custom joints up to 60% quicker than they would with standard implants because the joints can be printed as soon as the X-rays were taken.

There are no muscles in your fingers.

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