Computer-Aided Process Planning for the Layered Fabrication of Porous Scaffold Matrices
Rapid Prototyping (RP) technology promises to have a tremendous impact on the design and fabrication of porous tissue replacement structures for applications in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. The layer-by-layer fabrication technology enables the design of patient-specific medical implants and complex structures for diseased tissue replacement strategies. Combined with advancements in imaging modalities and bio-modeling software, physicians can engage themselves in advanced solutions for craniofacial and mandibular reconstruction. For example, prior to the advancement of RP technologies, solid titanium parts used as implants for mandibular reconstruction were fashioned out of molding or CNC-based machining processes (Fig. 3.1). Titanium implants built using this process are often heavy, leading to increased patient discomfort. In addition, the Young’s modulus of titanium is almost five times that of healthy cortical bone resulting in stress shielding effects [1,2]. With the advent of CAD/CAM-based tools, the virtual reconstruction of the implants has resulted in significant design improvements. The new generation of implants can be porous, enabling the in-growth of healthy bone tissue for additional implant fixation and stabilization. Newer implants would conform to the external shape of the defect site that is intended to be filled in. More importantly, the effective elastic modulus of the implant can be designed to match that of surrounding tissue. Ideally, the weight of the implant can be designed to equal the weight of the tissue that is being replaced resulting in increased patient comfort. Currently, such porous structures for reconstruction can only be fabricated using RP-based metal fabrication technologies such as Electron Beam Melting (EBM), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS®), and 3D™ Printing processes.
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