3D printed implants halves recovery time

Precision 3D printed implants in the scan-to-surgery process can halve recovery time for patients

In 2019, it has been estimated that 600,000 implants were produced with 3D printing

Demand-driven by an aging population, joints wearing out with sports, bone loss with trauma, and medical conditions, it is no wonder the requirement for implants is projected to grow to four million by 2027.

Additive manufacturing has been used since the 1990s to customise patient-specific implants. This technique makes surgeries easier with 3D printed surgical guides and also leads to better healing outcomes for the patient. Osseointegration is the medical term for the direct structural and functional connection between living bone and the surface of a load-bearing implant. Because titanium alloy is around three to four times stiffer than bones, biomechanical engineers must tailor the size and shape of the implant’s lattice structure to adjust the pliability of the implant to be closer to the bone’s stiffness. Research has shown the rough texture of lattice structures in implants (that can only be made with 3D printing) promotes osseointegration and facilitates soft tissue and bone regrowth. Metal implants are 3D printed using powder bed fusion technology, including direct metal laser melting, with titanium, cobalt-chromium alloys, and stainless steel being the most suitable materials due to their excellent corrosion resistance, mechanical strength, and no cytotoxicity properties.

With advancements in technology that uses artificial intelligence to segment a patient’s radiological scan to create the computer-aided design as the precise input for the 3D printing process, surgeons are equipped with 3D visualisation tools for explaining the surgical procedures to patients, enabling more informed decision-making and peace of mind. AI-powered technology can also segment the spinal vertebrae within minutes with an accuracy rate of 95% to design custom implants. Previous segmentation methods required thousands of hours of manual identification and markups to hundreds of computerised tomography (CT) scans.

The final approved design is sent through to Additive Engineering for manufacturing. The file is checked to be suitable for 3D printing. The as-printed part is heat-treated, surface roughness and measurements checked, sterilised and sealed in tamper-resistant packaging, and sent to the surgeon within days for use in surgery.



Knaus Tabbert AG bets on S1 from AM Solutions

Absolutely clean 3D printed components for recreational vehicles with a fully automatic operation.

A significant quality improvement of the de-powdering and cleaning operation for 3D printed components at lower costs and shorter cycle times! A leading manufacturer of recreational vehicles is fulfilling this goal with the purchase of the automated post-processing system, S1 from AM Solutions – 3D post-processing technology.

With their innovative designs and powerful drive systems the motor homes, caravans and panel trucks of the Knaus Tabbert AG allow safe, comfortable and sustainable travelling. At its German headquarters in Jandelsbrunn, Bavaria, the company is using its know-how to continuously improve the materials and designs of its vehicles. Naturally, this also includes the employment of new manufacturing technologies such as additive manufacturing (AM). Mario Meszaros, development engineer at Knaus Tabbert explains: “On the one hand we are using the 3D printing technology for creating prototypes. On the other, we are also using additive manufacturing for producing standard components in volume such as the bracket for an alarm system or the hinge mechanism for the swing-out shower stall.”

A challenging post-processing task

To date, the de-powdering and cleaning of PA 12 components, produced by a powder-bed printing system, was done manually in a blast cabinet. Since this post-processing operation required not only a lot of labour and time but also produced highly erratic and inconsistent results, the company was looking for an automated alternative.

Therefore, comprehensive processing trials were run with different components in the Customer Experience Centre of AM Solutions – 3D post-processing technology. This division of the Rösler group specialises in post-processing solutions for 3D printed components. After the conclusion of the highly successful processing trials, the customer chose the S1 shot blasting system.

This shot blast machine was specifically developed for the post-processing of plastic components produced with the powder bed printing method. The plug-and-play S1 is the only machine on the market that allows the time-saving and cost-efficient de-powdering as well as surface smoothing and homogenisation of 3D printed components in one single machine. All that is required, is a simple change of the blast media, for example, from glass beads to plastic spheres.

The S1, equipped with a basket that rotates during the finishing operation and allows easy, ergonomic loading and unloading of the workpieces, allows fully automatic batch processing. Throughout the entire process, the basket remains in the machine housing. This, combined with a special door sealing system, prevents any powder spillage into the immediate surroundings. The control panel allows an easy and quick switch to manual operation without any retooling. “More and more companies from different industries are choosing the S1 for post-processing of their 3D printed components. This is a confirmation of our product strategy. It shows that our 3D post-processing products are in full compliance with the requirements of the market”, says Manuel Laux, Head of AM Solutions – 3D post-processing technology.

Perfect cleaning results and quick amortization

“The fact that after surprisingly short cycle times the components came out of the machine perfectly clean and without any powder residues was very impressive,” Mario Meszaros says. “With the underlying operating data, I prepared an ROI calculation. The results quickly convinced our management: Even with only three print jobs per week in the S1, we already achieve a return on investment after roughly two years. However, it is safe to assume that the quantity of 3D-printed components will increase significantly. This will drastically reduce the amortization period.”


High process stability and operational safety

The benefits of the S1 are not only limited to the excellent processing results and the quick amortization. In its standard version, it also features a system that automatically monitors and records all relevant process parameters. The integrated blast media cleaning and recycling system represent another reason for the high process stability. It ensures that irrespective of the media type the media is always available in perfect condition. Another plus is the explosion-protected design of the shot blast machine with ATEX-compliant motors and valves. “I am absolutely convinced that the simple, effective and efficient post-processing possibilities of the S1 will further promote the use of additive manufacturing in our company,” Mario Meszaros adds.