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Using Mobile Surface Measurement To Create Perfect Implants

In order to treat fractures surgically, surgeons need implants that not only provide excellent support, but which can also be easily removed once the fracture has healed. To guarantee the smooth surface of the implants, ITS. GmbH successfully uses the SURFCOM TOUCH 50 measuring device from ACCRETECH.

All it takes is a slip and an awkward fall to break a bone. Where a fracture is complicated, surgery is unavoidable. Implants in the form of nails, screws and anatomically shaped plates, among others, provide the stability required. These implants have to meet high standards, because they usually have to be removed after healing, and the smoother its surface, the better.

For a sufficiently smooth surface and bio-compatibility, the implant manufacturer ITS. has recently started anodising its implants in-house in order to work more effectively and to be able to offer excellent quality. During the anodising process, the titanium implants are coated with a very smooth, bio-compatible oxide layer that smooths micropores and the finest cracks, thus reducing the possible integration into the bone tissue and the dreaded cold welding of screws. “In order to be able to guarantee the smoothest possible surface of the implants, we determine the surface roughness of the implants using the SURFCOM TOUCH 50 from ACCRETECH before and after anodising,” reports Lukas Feichtenschlager, Product Manager at ITS.

Fast Measurement of Hard-to-Reach Places

Surgery should be performed as early as possible to stabilise the fracture for movement and weight-bearing. Screwing is often combined with other methods, e.g. with traction screws through a plate. Such a plate is made of titanium grade 2, but the screws are made of a harder titanium alloy. This way the holes do not need threads. If a set screw is used, it creates a thread in the plate itself. Nothing is cut and therefore there is no dirt in the wound during the operation.

To guarantee the smooth surfaces of the implants, they are measured before and after anodising at predefined measuring points with the SURFCOM TOUCH 50. Thanks to its high stylus axis range, even hard-to-reach places can be measured, which is a great advantage because implants are often irregularly anatomically shaped and therefore rarely have flat surfaces. About 3 parts per minute are tested.

“We bought the unit because it is good value for money and in this price range the unit is unbeatable. The system is also simple and can be operated with a short training session for the employee,” summarises Lukas Feichtenschlager. In addition, he points out that the measurement data not only guarantees the high quality of the implants, but also forms a basis for the research and development of new implants. For example, ITS. will soon be launching a new hip nail.

Specifications Need To Be Observed

The confirmed quality of the implants depends on the correct use of the measuring equipment and the chosen measuring strategy, and this includes not only the right choice of probe. Since dust deposits or lubricant residues on the surface distort the measurements, the user must ensure that the probes are well maintained and have clean surfaces. Factors such as temperature, humidity or potential sources of vibration also affect the measurement result. The environmental conditions must therefore be checked in advance, because customers rely on the measurement results being correct, i.e. the implants being sufficiently smooth, because ultimately the well-being of the patients depends on this.

For ITS., it is practical to be able to measure work-pieces directly in production thanks to mobile surface measurement. Individual parameters and measuring conditions for different work-pieces can be stored in the instrument memory and called up as required. Changing between work-pieces is quick and uncomplicated and a large area of production can be covered with it.

In order to be able to offer the ideal implants for surgical fracture treatment in the future, ITS. is conducting research with surgeons to optimally adapt the geometry and composition of the implants to the possible treatment options. “With our dedicated focus on developing and expanding our portfolio of implants and services, our goal is to soon be able to serve more than 90% of all trauma indications. And the SURFCOM TOUCH 50 is indispensable here,” reports Lukas Feichtenschlager.

Smart User Interface Provides Excellent Operability

The measuring system offers high resolution over the largest measuring range in its class thanks to an advanced detector. The probe can be changed to suit deep, long or small bores as well as round surfaces, making it easy to measure different types of work-pieces, ideal for checking irregular, anatomically shaped implants.

The Z-axis measurement range covers 1000 µm to 2000 µm, with a minimum resolution of 0.0001 μm. It eliminates time and effort aligning the work-pieces. The device not only measures flat surfaces, but also detects the roughness or waviness of graduated or round surfaces with a single measuring track. Levelling and zeroing before measurement is also possible without any problems. Measurements of vertical surfaces, overhead measurements and measurements of narrow areas are also possible.

The transportable, compact feed unit is easy to install, offers an X-axis measuring range of 50 mm, a guiding accuracy of 0.3 μm/50 mm and a vertical positioning range of the detector of 50 mm. Safe positioning at constant speed is made possible by operating the feed unit in the X direction from the amplifier screen.

The self-explanatory screen makes it easy to set measurement conditions, perform calibration, measurement and analysis safely and makes operation simple and intuitive. The instruction manual itself is designed like a manual for household appliances. A quick reference illustrates the basic steps so that the user does not have to write procedures.

USB/micro-USB ports are available as standard. A total of 15 measurement conditions and 20 measurement results can be stored in the SURFCOM TOUCH evaluation unit. For more, a USB memory can be connected to the standard USB port. The evaluation unit is also equipped with a micro-USB connection and with a USB cable, measurement data can be transferred to the computer and evaluated. This is an advantage for ITS because it means that there is always sufficient storage space and data processing capacity available when large amounts of data are generated in the development work for new implants.

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