Artificial Knees, Made to Order

ConforMIS, which creates custom knees using rapid prototyping, just raised $50 million in venture financing.

artificial knee


Two of the biggest trends in cutting edge medical technology are customized medicine and minimally invasive techniques. The new artificial knees by CorforMIS represent both ideas: Using rapid prototyping, the artificial knees are manufactured the specific contours of bones, so that less bone needs to be cut away for the implant. The startup announced that it raised $50 million in funding, and plans to introduce the knee sometime in 2010.

As Technology Review reports, ConforMIS knees–which recently won a prestigious award for medical design–take about six weeks to make, from start to finish. They’re aimed at the arthritic, whose joints can be worn away into irregular contours because of the disease.

The process starts with an MRI or CT scanner, which creates a 3-D image of the damaged joint. That model is then used to create a precisely molded interior surface for the implant, while the metal side facing the new joint recreates the shape of the formerly healthy joint.

Typically, large chunks of bone have to be cut away to accommodate off-the-shelf artificial knees; the ConforMIS eliminate almost all of that. They’re currently undergoing trials to study patient outcomes–the idea is that the knees, because they cause less trauma, will lessen operating and recovery times.

You can watch video of exactly how the knees are made here.



The most popular and talked about stories of the week.


[Via Tech Review]

Related Stories:
The Year’s Best-Designed Medical Devices
The Desktop Manufacturing Revolution

About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.