Project news

Feb 15, 2022

"Personalized products have the potential to improve medical treatment while lowering expenses."


x min read

"Personalized products have the potential to improve medical treatment while lowering expenses."

Feb 15, 2022

Since 2009, Zoltán Major has been Professor and Leader of the Institute of Polymer Product Engineering at Johannes Kepler University Linz. He studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Miskolc (Hungary) and did his Ph.D. in Leoben (Austria) on the topic “A Fracture Mechanics Approach to Characterize Rate Dependent Fracture Behavior of Engineering Polymers”. As a contract professor, he built up the new Institute of Polymer Product Engineering at JKU in Linz in 2009, becoming a full professor in 2013.

What is the key role that IPPE plays in the development of the 3D parts for INKplant and what expertise does IPPE, specifically, bring to the project?

The IPPE research focuses on the design of multi-material 3D structures, multiscale modelling of scaffolds and structural simulations that take into account porosity and mechanical gradients, and patient individualized adaptation. The institute's experience with part design and engineering using state-of-the-art modelling software allows for a multi-scale approach to part design, modelling, and simulation for both industrial and biomechanical applications. The IPPE will also conduct biomechanical evaluations of test structures as well as mechanical evaluations of single materials and 3D printed items.

Since the IPPE's beginning in 2009, we've worked on a number of small projects involving assistive technology, biomimetics, biomechanics, and bio-modelling. For example, to increase the independence of people with reduced or no hand/arm functionality, we created personalized mouthsticks to enable users to sign, draw, handle touch screens and computers, and to even handcraft as part of the project "RaProErgo – Rapid Prototyping for Ergotherapy". We are also part of the project “MEDUSA – Medical Education in Surgical Aneurysm Clipping”, in which hybrid surgical simulators that combine the virtual with the physical world with new technology-based teaching elements are developed. We uphold very good relationships with numerous software developers and international research and industrial partners, as our research focuses mostly on the design, simulation, and component testing of polymer products.

Quotation markMedical applications that are tailored to the individual provide greater comfort and potentially lead to less revision surgeries.

How integral to regenerative medicine do you believe 3D printing to be and what kind of impact do you hope it will have?

Additive manufacturing allows for a wide range of freeform and complex shapes to be made with little or no manufacturing limitations. The most significant benefit in the domain of medical application is that it allows for the creation of individualized and patient-specific medical products. It assists in incorporating user participation, which is critical for product quality, precise fitting, and acceptance. Medical applications that are tailored to the individual, such as custom-made prosthetics, hearing aids, dental crowns, and implants etc., provide greater comfort and potentially lead to less revision surgeries.

3D printed models can also be used to educate patients and their families about why a surgical procedure is necessary and how it will be performed. By providing further information, we can reduce patient worry and put them at ease. In addition, 3D printed implants and implant moulds based on the results of computer tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are gaining in popularity as they can perfectly replicate the patient's required implant shape. The economic importance of 3D printing is also increasing. Additive manufacturing allows for tool-less production, which can lower prototyping and tooling costs. As a result, medical product development and the time between development and market availability can be reduced.

Quotation markWe anticipate that many countries will be inspired by INKplant and will gain a better understanding of global challenges.

One of the aims of the project is to strengthen the EU as an actor of scientific excellence in the field of personalized medicine. What kind of results do you hope to see that will aid this objective?

The development of medical solutions is considerably enhanced by international interdisciplinary teamwork and a participatory design approach that incorporates clients/patients and medical experts in the development process, as seen in EU projects like INKplant. Increased strategic cooperation encourages the sharing of scientific ideas and talents, as well as the provision of novel research infrastructure. With open innovation challenges, even people outside the INKplant consortium can participate with their ideas and further European development. These advancements will strengthen the EU's position as a global leader in new and developing technology domains. We anticipate that many countries will be inspired by this and will gain a better understanding of global challenges.

We hope to see personalized products improving medical treatment while lowering expenses and enabling us to reduce waste in raw materials, energy, and resources. Medical products would also reach customers faster if additive manufacturing technology is used. The total market demand for 3D printed personalized medical tools is likely to expand due to aging population and population expansion.

Quotation markThe continuous support and guidance of the medical professionals in INKplant is required to ensure the designs meet the needs of patients and surgeons.

In your opinion, what are the main challenges of the INKplant project, and what key attributes are needed to overcome them?

Many challenges arise as we strive for patient-specific implant design, as each product has its own distinct characteristics. There is no one-size-fits-all approach that allows us to infinitely reproduce the same result as with traditional procedures. A fast design process, and the characterization, verification, and validation of the implant, are among the challenges. Also, because this product will be placed inside the human body, the designer must exercise extreme caution to ensure the structural and biological compatibility of the final product. The continuous support and guidance of the medical professionals in INKplant is required to ensure the designs meet the needs of patients and surgeons. The interdisciplinary INKplant team tackles together the different challenges regarding mechanical stability, biocompatibility, and printability.

Of course, one of the challenges has been the pandemic, which prohibited the project partners from meeting in person until now. On the positive side, people became more used to virtual communications, which improved the quick and regular connection with partners in other countries. However, everyone is looking forward to face-to-face meetings to experience the different lab environments within our project partners and to enhance effective collaborations with some personal networking.