back to article Fraunhofer boffins develop 'Titanium foam' endoskeletal implants

Titanium - it's everywhere these days, long having spread beyond its initial uses in aerospace. Fruitbite laptops are cased in it, high-end tools and cutlery are made from it, there's even jewellery. Titanium foam developed by the Fraunhofer Institutes. Credit: IFAM The latest in foamalloy endoskeletons. Titanium alloy is …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One step closer to Shadowrun

    *marks Titanium Bone Lacing off the to-do list*

    1. TimeMaster T
      Thumb Up

      What about ...

      I'm waiting for them to do this with Adamantium.

  2. oddie


    "The "TiFoam" is made by soaking ordinary polyurethane foam in a solution containing fine titanium powder. Then everything except the titanium is brutally vapourised and the powder sintered together, forming a metallic replica of the original polyurethane."

    Wouldn't it rather form a metallic 'negative' of the original polyurethane? That is, what used to be polyurethane is now air holes, and what used to be airholes (pre titanium solution soaking) is now titanium?

    I for one welcome more technology that tries to make me live longer! :D Fraunhofer, telomere lengthening for christmas next year please!!!

    1. Elmer Phud

      Yeah, yeah

      You're just talking a load of airholes!

    2. JDB


      doesn't make you live longer, but makes longer life better - that's tech I really like.

    3. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Longer Telomeres - bah

      Live fast, die young, leave an interesting crater. You can have your elf-like life.

      I want orbital skydiving.

      1. Captain DaFt


        "Live fast, die young, leave an interesting crater."

        So, you mean like this guy? (He made quite an impression with his invention!)

        Coat icon for obvious reasons...

  3. Not Installed Properly
    Thumb Up

    What a nice alignment of words

    "...remorseless German boffins of the Fraunhofer Institutes, whose tolerance for unsatisfactory situations is famously nonexistent"

  4. Z80

    a descriptive heading or caption

    Ve have vays of making you (able to) walk (again).

  5. Code Monkey


    Nice to see some technology advances that don't have me reaching for a tinfoil hat. Congratulations to the metallo-osseo-bofiins.

    1. Olafthemighty
      Black Helicopters

      Tinfoil hat?

      That's _so_ last year - hang around a month or two and this lot should be able to do you a titanofoam skull!

  6. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    It would be interesting

    to see if bone would gradually permute the foam over time.

    My thoughts are that if it is similar in strength to human bone, it may break, but if over time ordinary bone grows through, it may be able to heal with ordinary bone, without further surgical intervention. Now that would be revolutionary. It may completely change the lives of people who currently have to go through serious bone grafting after injury.

    I am not in any way associated with a medical profession, and I am just idly speculating, so I'm sure someone will say that this can't happen. Still...

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      @ Peter Gathercole

      I had the same thought as you when I read the article. There is no (obvious) reason why bone will not colonise the skeleton. Much successful work is being done in growing new organs on scaffolding structures outside the body. Science fiction has taken one more step to becoming science fact.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This is the title

      >so I'm sure someone will say that this can't happen.

      Not at all - there are any number of projects of this type in the lab at the moment - it's just that even after getting it to work in the lab there's still ten years of clinical trials to go through.

      The titanium foam isn't even particularly innovative (been done years ago) - far better is a material that supports the bone structural whilst new bone grows and then selectively dissolves as new bone replaces it so that in the end after a year or two the implant is completely gone (even if half the bone is missing to start with). Early systems along these lines are already up and running.

  7. M7S

    Who will be the first

    to get the full skeletal transplant?


    1. strangefish

      damn you

      for beating me to the post! :¬)

  8. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Institut für Fertigungstechnik und Angewandte Materialforschung

    Do German signwriters get paid by the metre?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    does it have to be so BRUTAL? Can't we have some kindness in metallurgy, a little touchy feely perhaps.

    "Then everything except the titanium is brutally vapourised"

    Won't someone think of the... err... polyurethane?

    Paris is brutal, she's very....

  10. david 12

    bacterial invasion

    Materials which are easy for bone to bond to are generally also easy for bacteria to colonise, and implant infection is a problem anyway because of the limited blood supply to the region. So I won't be recommending this for my Mother for a couple of years yet, until there good evidence that it's not another bad idea.

    Oh, and don't think that loading it up with antibiotics is going to solve the problem: those heart implants actually had worse outcomes than the antibiotic-free versions.

    1. Mephistro Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re:Bacterial invasion

      The titanium surface is passivated (oxidized) to form a layer of TiO2, a chemically and biologically very stable compound which doesn't offer a good substrate for bacteria and has some antibiotic properties. The foam structure allows a very high degree of vascularization for the implant, supposedly allowing our immune system to take care of the infections by itself.

      This sounds like a winner, but I totally subscribe the part about waiting a few years before recommending this.

  11. Tzael

    Does it sound any better?

    Wow, that's a bit of an upgrade to MP3 technology!

  12. Fred Mbogo
    Thumb Up


    I really hope they get working on my wired reflexes now. Bitte Schon herr boffins?

  13. strangefish


    now can they arrange for three sliding blades that will fit in between my knuckles? *snicket

  14. Steven Jones

    Mesh not a foam

    That picture is clearly of a 3D mesh stucture and not a foam. Foams have closed cellular structures, and that one is open structured.

    This is what a real metal foam looks like

    1. strangefish


      it is called a reticulated foam

  15. Pete Spicer

    Cyberdyne Systems, Model 101.

    "I'm a cybernetic organism. Living tissue over a metal endoskeleton."

    Judgement Day is coming.

  16. Rob

    Next development

    Sharp titanium claws that shoot out from your knuckles.

    Mines, the yellow one with the black X on it... Shnickety Shnick

    1. TimeMaster T

      slight corection

      Adamantium, not Titanium.

      from between the knuckles.

  17. Graham Marsden

    Yeah, but..

    ... this is only measly titanium, not Adamantium!

  18. Anonymous Coward

    "Fruitbite laptop"


    I was "encouraged" to use one of those fruit-bite computers back in the days of the black-and-white postage-stamp-sized screen imitation desktop thing that did its best to print one page an hour if it felt like it. Not much to love. Even Windows 3.1 was did better than that. And the screen was bigger.

    Back to the story about titanium.... Clever stuff. The last time I remember something like this being used effectively was the implantation of coral. Coral was being used because it was natural, easy to sterilise, and was replaced with bone over time. It would be interesting to see how well the body treats the titanium over time.

  19. dogged

    this looks good

    I've been working my way through implant surgeries since a bike accident 15 years ago. The original Stellite stuff was fine but caused wear on adjacent bones due to its extreme weight. The solid titanium is working a treat so far - I like the kevlar kneecap too, thanks guys - but if next time around they decide to go for foam, I will be happy to write you a review.

    That's be RegHardware though, right?

  20. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Nice.....but it's titanium..

    ...And a good chunk of the very people this is targetted at can't use it because they're allergic to the stuff.

    Titanium reactions are nasty and responsible for a sizeable percentage of implant failures every year, thanks to a penny-pinching approach from the NHS of not pretesting for sensitivity to the metal before shoving it in someone's body.

    People who have to have inplants removed then have to undergo ever more excruciating surgery to have more bone removed so that alternatives can be used - or face being crippled for life.

    Different metals please!

  21. Tom Samplonius

    Titanium allergy rates

    Titanium allergy rates are about 4%. Titanium is an inert metal, so there is a certain amount of disbelief that the 4% even exists. And the 4% rate is what a producer of Titanium allergy testing products states, so the general population rates are probably a lot lower.

    The remaining 4% will have to get by with stainless steel.

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Orbital skydiving eh?

    Someone's a fan of Iain M. Banks :)

  23. Killban
    Thumb Up

    The Bionicle Man

    "I'm a cybernetic organism. Living tissue over a metal endoskeleton."

    Nice. I have a Titanium implant after a broken leg. I will use that at the airport when it sets off the metal detectors...

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