Additive manufacturing of fracture fixation implants: Design, material characterization, biomechanical modeling and experimentation

Maryam Tilton, Gregory S. Lewis, Hwa Bok Wee, April Armstrong, Michael W. Hast, Guha Manogharan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Recent advancements in additive manufacturing (AM) have motivated researchers to consider this fabrication technique as a solution for challenges in patient-specific orthopaedic needs. Although there is an increasing trend in the applications of AM in medical fields, there is a critical need to understand the biomechanical performance of AM implants. In particular, design opportunities, anisotropic material properties and resulting stability of AM implant constructs for large bone defects such as osteosarcoma, comminuted fractures and infections are unexplored. This study aims to evaluate metal AM for complex fracture fixation using both computational and experimental methods. In addition, this research highlights the role of AM in the entire workflow to fabricate metal AM fixation plates for treatment of comminuted proximal humerus fractures. A new AM-centric patient-specific implant design for reducing common postoperative complications such as varus collapse and screw cutout is investigated. Biocompatible 316L stainless steel specimens processed in laser-powder bed fusion (L-PBF) is subjected to tensile testing and post-hoc microhardness to obtain orthotropic material properties of the AM implants. Subsequently, risk of screw cut-out is evaluated using finite element modelling (FEM) of AM implant-bone constructs. Parallel experiments included synthetic bones that are evaluated using a 3D motion capture system. The biomechanical tests are analyzed to quantify the medial fracture gap displacement among study groups subject to different loading conditions. The outcomes of this study suggest that the proposed AM-centric fixation plate design reduces average varus collapse (i.e. medial fracture gap displacement) by 47.2 % and risk of screw cut-out by 14.6 % when compared to the conventional plate design. Findings from this study can be extended to other patient anatomy, loading conditions, and AM processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101137
JournalAdditive Manufacturing
StatePublished - May 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • General Materials Science
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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