Breakthrough will Eliminate Need for Second Surgeries Reducing Risks, Costs and Suffering for Patients
During a press conference on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at IMTS 2018, Optomec, a global supplier of production-grade additive manufacturing (AM) systems for 3D printed metals unveiled details of how the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is using a LENS Hybrid Controlled Atmosphere System to develop dissolvable magnesium components that will have broad-reaching implications in the design and manufacture of next-generation medical implants.
This ground-breaking work will enable 3D printed, patient-specific implants with controlled time to dissolve, eliminating the need for second surgeries and thus reduce risks, costs and suffering for patients.
“We are proud to be the first customer of an Optomec LENS Hybrid Controlled Atmosphere System, the only commercially-available machine to provide hybrid manufacturing capabilities for reactive metals,” said Dr. Michael Sealy, assistant professor for Mechanical and Materials Engineering at UNL and a pioneer in advanced manufacturing research. “Our research is focused on advancing the performance and functionality of dissolvable devices. Using LENS, we are applying a hybrid additive manufacturing process to control the disintegration of medical fasteners and plates so they stay in-tact long enough to serve their purpose and then degrade away once the bone is healed.”
Currently, medical implants, such as plates and screws, are made of titanium or stainless steel, which are permanent structures that often have high complication rates and require a second surgery for removal. By using the LENS Hybrid Controlled Atmosphere System to print patient-specific magnesium implants with a controlled time to dissolve, Sealy’s team is eliminating the need for second surgeries and thus also reducing risks, costs and suffering for patients.
“Two years ago, at IMTS in 2016, Sealy and his team at University of Nebraska became the first customer of our LENS Hybrid Controlled Atmosphere system,” said Tom Cobbs, LENS product manager at Optomec. “Today they are here at IMTS showcasing their groundbreaking accomplishments achieved with their LENS Hybrid system. Sealy’s pioneering work enables the design and manufacture of components with a combination of properties unobtainable using traditional metal working methods. We applaud his innovative use of hybrid additive manufacturing to create and qualify a new class of metal components with unique properties that will benefit mankind.”
Powdered metals such as magnesium, titanium and other reactive materials must be processed in a controlled atmosphere environment where oxygen and moisture impurities are maintained below 10 parts per million. Sealy used the Optomec LENS 3D Hybrid Controlled Atmosphere System to process these materials in a way that addresses a key scientific challenge: how to maintain the strength and integrity of a degradable implant long enough for it to do its job. Partnered with Sentient Science, Sealy is also investigating innovative hybrid processing techniques of 7000 series aluminum for the Navy.
The LENS Hybrid CA System enables Sealy and his team to couple LENS deposition technology with layered surface treatments to print 3D metal components in magnesium with controlled degradation. The ability to control disintegration of a structure is a highly sought-after design capability, not only for applications in orthopedics, cardiology, and urology, but also for other applications areas such as lightweight aerospace and automotive structures.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a leader in hybrid additive manufacturing and recently established the Nebraska Engineering Additive Technology (NEAT) Labs to create a state-of-the-art regional hub for additive manufacturing research and innovation that enables collaborations among academia and industry.
The Optomec LENS 3D Hybrid Controlled Atmosphere System is the industry’s first and only atmosphere-controlled system for additive and subtractive processing of metals, including titanium and aluminum. Optomec LENS hybrid technology combines a rugged CNC automation platform with industry-proven LENS technology, lowering acquisition cost to bring metal additive manufacturing capabilities to industrial markets. This week, Optomec announced the LENS 860 Machine Tool Series which have larger build volumes and support higher laser power.