Machine Design

Math software solves more than equations

To help build customized endplates for prostheses, researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology and the Netherlands Organization for Applied Research are using Math-ematica 5.2 software.

The spinal-disc prosthesis endplate is generated with a special algorithm running in Mathematica software.


The researchers' technique involves importing 3D MRI and CT scans of injured spines, enhancing the scans as required, and performing a 3D "fit" of the endplates with a segmentation technique that uses what's called a balloon algorithm running in the software. (Imagine a small balloon inflated between two spinal vertebrae. It perfectly meshes against the vertebral surfaces and provides contours for modeling prosthesis geometry.) Researchers then export the geometry in STL format to a CNC machine, which cuts the customized endplates.

Fitting a prosthesis to a vertebrae is critical to patient outcome in spinal-disc replacement. Imperfect alignment often increases pressure on the spinal column, causes excessive wear, and creates other complications. Current prostheses are typically a one-size-fits-all.

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