What You Need To Know About Customized 3D Printed Knee Implants

We all know fingerprints and retinas are unique, but did you know your knees are also one-of-a-kind? So, if you’re considering knee replacement surgery, it may be worth considering a customized knee replacement that perfectly mirrors yours? Customized 3D knee replacements are becoming more common in orthopedics and are playing an increasingly important role in knee replacement surgeries.

Continue reading to learn all you need to know about 3D printed implants!

What Makes Knees Unique?

Knee sizes vary from person to person, which means that one-size-fits-all prosthetics don’t fit anyone. Apart from size, the shape of the joint differs significantly between people. The angle at which the femur (thigh-bone) meets the tibia (shin-bone) also makes a difference. Additionally, the placement of ligaments and tendons doesn't just differ from person to person but can also be different in the same individual in the left and right knee.

How Does 3D Printing Help?

3D printing allows us to create knee prostheses that replicate the natural movement of a real knee. While traditional implants still fulfill their function, they may not be as comfortable or effective as 3D knee implants. Unlike a conventional knee prosthesis, 3D printed knee implants are usually asymmetrical as they mimic the patient’s anatomy. They’ve also been shown, in some studies, to significantly improve movement when compared to traditional implants.

How Does It Work?

Receiving a customized knee implant is a longer process than a traditional implant, but it allows for patient-specific implants that are a matched fit for each individual in size, shape, angle, and positioning.

Before creating the 3D printed implant, there are several factors to consider such as age, weight, overall health, and extent of physical activity. Knowing these helps customize the knee implant, so the patient can return to a normal, pain-free life. Some patients may still be better served by a conventional implant, so this requires a careful evaluation and discussion with your surgeon.

The first step to 3D printed knee replacements is to get high-resolution imaging of the joint using a 3D scanner. A computer modeling software can then be used to create a model that exactly replicates the natural joint of the individual. The material used needs to fit certain conditions like flexibility, elasticity, and how well it can perform the function of a real knee.

3D printing for knee joints usually uses a technique called “additive manufacturing,” which means the model is printed in layers until the precise model has been printed. Additive manufacturing is much faster than traditional manufacturing and also allows the usage of a combination of materials. The model is then printed to produce a perfect rendering of the patient’s knee.


Don’t let knee pain hold you back from living your life. If you or someone you love requires reconstructive knee surgery, call (251) 410-3600 or book an appointment at the practice of Matthew D. Barber, M.D., to get a customized knee implant with the latest 3D printing technology.


While Dr Barber focuses exclusively on the management of knee and hip problems with a focus on joint replacement procedures, he is proud to be a source of information for patients and has several specialist partners at ALABAMA ORTHOPAEDIC CLINIC who are available to treat any orthopedic condition.