The possibilities offered by additive manufacturing processes - also known as 3D printing - have advanced dramatically over the last three decades as technology has evolved. As a result, these techniques have an increasing impact on research and development in countless areas of life, with current trends clearly pointing in the direction of industrial applications. 3D printing is also accelerating the development of new methods in the field of medical technology by shortening development cycles, but also because highly integrated components enable solutions that would be difficult to implement conventionally.
In combination with the three-dimensional data sets from imaging modalities such as CT, MRI and ultrasound, which have become standard in everyday clinical practice, synergies can be exploited for further progress. The image data can be used to determine a diagnosis, while patient-specific models and simulations can help to identify a path leading to the best possible care. Consequently, 3D printing based on patient-specific three-dimensional image data can enable customized treatment, even of very specific defects, for individualized therapy.
The IMTE has a variety of different technologies at its disposal. These include filament-based extrusion of plastics, stereolithography and inkjet-like polyjet processes, as well as more specialized techniques such as selective laser melting of metal powders or multi-photon polymerization for the production of micro- and nanostructures. By integrating additive manufacturing into a variety of research projects, IMTE is able to offer a broad portfolio of research and development tasks.
Individualized implants add real value to the treatment of patients. Such implants are designed based on tomographic images, the segmentation of single organic structures and subsequent transformation into 3D models; so called polygon meshes. Due to measurement inaccuracies, pathological alterations of the anatomy and image artefacts, these models often contain errors and therefore have to be corrected manually. At Fraunhofer IMTE, algorithms are developed to perform these alterations automatically. In order to optimize these processes, knowledge from the whole process chain is incorporated into the design of the methodologies.