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3D printing is delivering customization options that make it possible to create almost any shape using ad- ditive manufacturing (AM) technology. In fact, thepossibilities of 3D printing are so game-changing, it is evenpossible to create carbon copies of our own skulls. Sandvik’sadditive manufacturing and metal powder specialists areexploring the potential of AM in the medical ;eld, and arepreparing for the future of medical implants.
Life-threatening accidents, vertebral damage, chronicosteopathic conditions, and side-e;ects from medical treatment can all cause irreparable damage to patients. ;e consequences can be painful, debilitating, and even fatal, sowe must develop solutions to help the human body overcome challenges, enhance the healing process and improvepatient prognosis. Medical implant technology has developed vastly over the years, and one of manufacturing’smost disruptive technologies is set to transform the waywe treat patients.
Medical implant developers require a manufacturingtechnology that delivers speed, individualization, and theability to produce complex designs. 3D printing, paired withbio-compatible materials like titanium, is demonstrating itsevident potential as the medical industry’s manufacturingtechnology of choice for life-changing solutions.
In the past, surgeons used metal mesh to replace areas ofthe body such as skull bones, which tended to be weak andlacked precision. 3D printing eliminates these ;aws becauseit uses medical imaging to create a customized implant,shaped exactly according to the individual’s anatomicaldata. ;is means that the patient can be ;tted with an exactmatch to replace the lost or damaged area of the skull.
In Sandviken, Sweden lies one of the world’s most cutting-edge titanium powder plants. At the plant, Sandvik’sexperts are unlocking the potential of 3D printed titaniumdevices for the medical industry. “Titanium, 3D printing, andthe medical sector are the perfect match,” explains HaraldKissel, R&D Manager at Sandvik Additive Manufacturing.
“Titanium has excellent properties and is one of few
metals accepted by the human body, while 3D printing can
rapidly deliver bespoke results for an industry where acting
quickly could be the di;erence between life and death.”
In addition to titanium’s material bene;ts, AM can help
overcome some of the challenges when producing medical
implants and prosthetics. Typically, the process of being ;t
for a prosthesis involves several visits to create a device that
;ts a patient and their needs. As a result, the time between a
patient’s life-changing surgery and them receiving their de-
vice can be painstakingly slow.
“If a patient undergoes a serious accident, one that destroys areas such as the skull or spine beyond repair, theysimply do not have time to spare to ensure their reconstructive devices ;t correctly. Instead, they’re given solutions thatwork, but aren’t tailored to their bodies,” Kissel explained.
“Long waiting times and a lack of customization can re-
ally impact how a patient feels a;er they’ve undergone a
life-changing event or procedure. Even in 2020, there are
still prosthetic patients using devices that do not move, or
simply just hook.”
“Using computer tomography, it is now possible to opti-
mize designs that simply cannot be produced using other
manufacturing methods. What’s more, we can make our
designs lighter, with less material waste, and in shorter lead
times. Patients could receive a perfectly matching device, in
less time and using a high-performing, lightweight material.”
In summer 2020, Sandvik’s specialist powder plant was
awarded the ISO 13485:2016 medical certi;cation for its
Osprey titanium powders, positioning its highly automat-
ed production process at the forefront of medical device
development. As AM disrupts many areas of manufactur-
ing, it’s clear that its potential in the medical sector will be
Sandvik is also part of one of the most ground-breakingresearch projects within the medical segment to date, contributing with its extensive material expertise. ;e SwissM4M Center in Switzerland is a public-private partnershipinitiated by the Swiss government, aiming to evolve medical 3D printing to a level where patient-speci;c, innovativeimplants can be developed and manufactured quickly andcost-e;ectively.
“;e Swiss M4M Center is intended to build up and certify a complete end-to-end production line for medical applications, like implants. Being able to facilitate this initiativethrough the unique material knowledge that is found withinSandvik is an empowering experience. Joining forces withan array of experts to reinvent the future of medical devicesas well as the lives of thousands of people—is an experienceout of the ordinary.”
A Life-Changing Combination
Additive manufacturing and titanium powder will disrupt medical implant production.
by Sandvik AB
Photo credit: Dreamstime