A new 3D printing project, known as Follow Knee, was recently announced in France that its supporters claim “will have the potential to improve the lives of millions suffering from knee problems.” Financed by the French National Research Agency (ANR) through a grant of 7.9 million Euros, its supporters anticipate that the program will “revolutionize knee surgery over the course of the next five years.”
Seven different organizations in the Brest area of France are participating to develop advanced prosthetic knee joints using 3D printing technology.
''Over the past 20 years, the number of prosthetic orthopaedic knee joints given to patients in France has increased by 20%, and this tendency shows no signs of reversing,’’ said Professor Eric Strindel, head of the project and director of the Medical Information Treatment Laboratory which is part of the French National Institute for Medical Health and Research.
"Younger patients no longer want to suffer in silence. They know that prosthetic joints work well and will enable them to play sports, go running or play golf again. And the obesity epidemic is worsening the problem of osteoarthritis of knee. Every extra kilo you carry represents a far greater weight in terms of strain on the knee, which leads to wear and tear much more quickly," said Strindel.
Follow Knee’s new approach will make use of 3D scanning and printing techniques to create what supporters believe will be a better artificial knee joint design and develop a new approach to its production. The 3D printing will be carried out by Rennes-based company SLS France, known for producing ceramic dental fittings. The 3D printed artificial knee joint will be made of a ceramic-metal alloy, according to the press release.
During the first three years of the program, 220 3D printed prosthetic knee joints are planned to be installed by Follow Knee’s team of surgeons. The surgeons will also install around 30 of the special sensors, designed to track the condition of the prosthetic and detect any problems. Produced by CEA, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission, these sensors will primarily be installed in younger patients, so their performance can be recorded over a long period of time. After five years, the goal is to have a marketable product that has been clinically certified.