While 3D modeling and 3D printing have evolved alongside one another since the 80’s, the full potential of 3D printing has not yet been realized in part due to the fact that the software has not been designed to realize it. With all of the geometric possibilities allowed in additive manufacturing, CAD software is now being developed to give designers the ability to take advantage of those possibilities. One such software platform is Autodesk Within, a parametric design program that allows for generative 3D modeling. And, today, the software company unveiled a version specifically for the medical industry.
Autodesk Within Medical takes the generative design approach to the orthopedic industry, modified to allow biomedical engineers to create medical implants with porous micro-lattice structures that promote bone and blood vessel growth and speed up the healing process. Not only that, but the porous structure makes for lighter implants as well. Biomedical engineers are also freed from typical design constraints and able to vary the properties of a print throughout, just by changing specific design parameters that determine the object’s inner structure. And, because CT and MRI scan data can be translated into 3D printable models, patient-specific implants will be the norm.
Mark Davis, senior director of design research at Autodesk, says of the necessity to create porous implants for the purposes of facilitating healing in patients, “Because bone ingrowth is vital for many orthopedic surgeries, Within Medical uses various pore size configurations and rough lattice surfaces to help the porous implant integrate properly with the bone. Within Medical designs are also optimized for specific 3D printing processes – such as direct metal laser sintering and electron beam melting – that allow for highly accurate manufacturing.”
Implants that can be created with Within Medical include devices for repairing skull deformities, hip replacements, vertebral replacements, and facial reconstruction. And, with the software, doctors have already been able to provide more than 600 patients with a variety of 3D printed implants.
Daniel Fiz, CEO of medical tech firm Novax DMA, says, “Within Medical has contributed enormously to changing the way in which we design and manufacture implants. It is a tool with which both custom made and standardized implants can be designed and developed in a much more biological and intelligent way. As both a surgeon and a designer, I believe this is the most important tool I have ever used, enabling us to make anatomic designs that would be impossible with other software.”
Autodesk believes that generative design, which relies on cloud computing tens of thousands of points of data, is the future of manufacturing. Though such a design platform may not have to come from Autodesk, there’s plenty of evidence in the industry that that’s the direction in which we’re heading. 3D printing users from netfabb and Nervous System to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have demonstrated that such an organic approach to design can yield magnificent objects. Given Autodesk’s existing importance in the manufacturing field, however, there’s a great likelihood that Autodesk Within will play an essential role in driving us in that direction. If you’ve got 8 minutes to learn more, check out this BBC clip below: