Bad Knees? Print New Ones!

Researchers at Duke University have developed a 3D printable hydro-gel cartilage that could revolutionize knee repair.

3D-Printable Knee / Image: Feichen Yang, Duke
3D-Printable Knee / Image: Feichen Yang, Duke

The human knee is a complex structure with a lot of moving parts that make it prone to injury. Knee operations are painful and expensive, and a full recovery can take months. Fortunately, researchers at Duke University are working to lighten the load the knee replacement surgery with a revolutionary 3D printable hydrogel that acts as cartilage. An April 22nd article from New Atlas says the knee parts, which can be fabricated with a $300 3D printer, can be custom tailored to be an exact match of the old part.

The researchers demonstrated the value of their new technology by printing a meniscus, which essentially works as a shock-absorber for the knee that allow it to bend and move smoothly for decades. "A meniscus is not a homogenous material," says graduate student Feichen Yang. "The middle is stiffer, and the outside is a bit softer. Multi-material 3D printers let you print different materials in different layers, but with a traditional mold you can only use one material."

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