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March/April 2009
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Casey Weathers, Juan Jimenez, Steven Hawks, Rachel Schoeppner (left to right) and Daniel Helms (not pictured) used ASTM standard F451 in their award-winning project.

Students Using Standards

ASTM Standard Plays Integral Role in Award-Winning Project

An award-winning project developed by students at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, could someday contribute to greater operating room efficiency and a lowered risk of infection for surgeries that require bone cement to secure implant devices.

The student team used ASTM International standard F451, Specification for Acrylic Bone Cement, to develop their project, “Alterations of Mixing Atmosphere and Amine Accelerator Concentration in PMMA Bone Cement for Reduced Time Set.” A paper based on the project received third prize in ASM International’s 2008 Undergraduate Design Competition. Team members were materials engineering students Steven Hawks, Juan Jimenez, Rachel Schoeppner, Casey Weathers and Daniel Helms. Hawks and Jimenez traveled to the Materials Science Technology Conference 2008 in Pittsburgh, Pa., to receive the $1,000 award on behalf of the entire team, which was advised by California Polytechnic professors Katherine Chen, Ph.D., and Trevor Harding, Ph.D.

The project began as part of a materials engineering class taught by Chen and Harding in early 2008. The purpose of the team’s study was to reduce polymethylmethacrylate bone cement set time without compromising its structural integrity or increasing residual amounts of toxic substances within the material. All testing was done by the team in accordance with directions in ASTM F451.

Team member Steven Hawks says that the idea for the team’s project originated with an orthopedic surgeon for whom Hawks’ mother works. “I contacted him when this project was first assigned and he mentioned the bone cement situation we then decided to investigate,” Hawks says. As the team worked, the problem of reducing set time described by the surgeon was confirmed by other sources as well. The goal in reducing set time was to improve efficiency and safety during implant operations.

Working with ASTM F451 became an integral aspect of the project. “Both Professor Harding and Professor Chen stressed the importance of using standards in experiments,” says Hawks. “Our experimental apparatus and variable definitions were all taken directly from F451. The standard was critical to us completing our project; it was an extremely useful resource.”

ASTM F451 was developed by Subcommittee F04.11 on Polymeric Materials, under the jurisdiction of ASTM International Committee F04 on Medical and Surgical Materials and Devices. Originally approved in 1976, ASTM F451 covers self-curing resins used primarily for the fixation of internal orthopedic prostheses, such as hip joint replacements. According to its scope, F451 covers “compositional, physical performance and biocompatibility as well as packaging requirements” for acrylic bone cement.

The standard is one of many that Harding and Chen use in their materials engineering class. According to Harding, standards play a role in the class from the very beginning. Students are taught early on what standards are and how they are developed and used. Homework assignments and projects require the use of standards.

Harding says the students who worked on the bone cement project exceeded expectations in their work. “These students did what they were required to do for the class and went above and beyond,” says Harding. “They did a fantastic and complete job as engineers.”

Using ASTM F451 helped make the work of the California Polytechnic team possible and demonstrates that the use of standards is just as important in the classroom as it is in the field, factory and laboratory.