Transforming what's possible for 3D-printed orthopaedic implants

Autodesk has unveiled Within Medical, a generative design software package that optimises 3D printing of medical implants for the orthopaedic industry. This is a Desktop Subscription add-on to Autodesk's Within software, a design tool for additive manufacturing in the aerospace, automotive and industrial sectors.

Generative design is a process by which the infinite computing power of the cloud is used to generate very large sets of designs that meet specific goals. Generative design is said to increase design quality, efficiency and performance across the board.

Components designed using Autodesk Within are said to be lighter than traditional designs and can be as stiff or as flexible as needed. Within Medical is claimed to allow biomedical engineers to create orthopaedic implants with micro-lattice porous structures that help properly connect the implants to living bone, and promote development of blood vessels in the surrounding tissue to facilitate healing.

"Because bone ingrowth is vital for many orthopaedic surgeries, Within Medical uses various pore size configurations and rough lattice surfaces to help the porous implant integrate properly with the bone," said Mark Davis, senior director of design research at Autodesk. "Within Medical designs are also optimised for specific 3D printing processes – such as direct metal laser sintering and electron beam melting – that allow for highly accurate manufacturing."

Applications of Within Medical include surgical repair of defects or deformities of the skull, hip joint replacement, lumbar vertebral replacement and facial reconstruction. There are currently more than 600 living patients with implants designed using Within Medical technology.

"Within Medical has contributed enormously to changing the way in which we design and manufacture implants. It is a tool with which both custom made and standardised implants can be designed and developed in a much more biological and intelligent way," said Daniel Fiz, CEO of Novax DMA. "As both a surgeon and a designer, I believe this is the most important tool I have ever used, enabling us to make anatomic designs that would be impossible with other software."