German researchers have developed a manufacturing technique that should make individual bone implants cheaper and more effective.
This involves coating a surface with wafer-thin layers of special metal powder. A laser beam heats – or sinters – the powdered metal in the exact places that need to be firm. “It’s like baking a cake,” says Andreas Burblies, spokesman for the Fraunhofer Numerical Simulation of Products, Processes Alliance. Any remaining loose powder is subsequently removed. “The end product is an open-pored element,” explains Burblies. “Each point possesses exactly the right density and thus also a certain stability.” The method allows the engineers to produce particularly lightweight components – customized for each application – that are also extremely robust. In the meantime, the researchers have further enhanced the process to the point where they can actually change the internal structure of the parts after production by means of precision drilling.
“We can manufacture and adapt the parts exactly as required,” says Burblies. This makes the technique very attractive to a number of industries, among them the manufacturers of bone implants. It is easy to produce individual implants with an internal structure that resembles the patient’s bone. Metal powders made of biomaterials such as titanium and steel alloys make it possible to reconstruct other bone elements, such as parts of the knee.
Press release from Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Applied Materials Research: Bake, bake, bake a bone …