FORT WORTH, Texas, September 20, 2012 — A soup-to-nuts medical device development company based in Fort Worth, Texas, is expanding its use of additive manufacturing as a way to create more complex and less-costly designs for implants.
Innovative Medical Device Solutions is partnering with EOS, which uses laser sintering processes to create durable parts from a growing number of materials. IMDS also uses plastics-based additive manufacturing systems from Stratasys, Objet Geometries and other companies.
The company has partnered in the development of 150 implant systems that are now in use. All of them have been manufactured using machining or other long-used manufacturing processes. So far, the additive manufacturing equipment at IMDS has been primarily used to manufacture prototypes.
| Complex designs are an AM advantage.(Photo courtesy EOS)
In an interview with Plastics Today, Dan Justin, chief technical officer for IMDS, said there's a new emphasis on additive manufacturing, in which three-dimensional parts are built in tiny layers using a variety of different technologies including laser sintering and fused deposition modeling.
"We're looking for ways to stretch the design possibilities of some of the implants we're working on. With additive manufacturing, we can build some creative structures that are difficult, if not impossible, to build without using additive manufacturing."
One specific example noted by Justin is the ability to produce functionally gradient structures that transition from a porous bone in-growth surface to a less porous, more solid load-bearing structure. To produce the same part with subtractive manufacturing, a porous coating is required.
Justin also said there is a growing trend toward patient-specific surgical guides for placement of pins, saws, and drills.
"We're in the process now of developing five systems that use additive manufacturing," said Justin. "Of the 150 systems we have already developed, about 20% to 25% could be converted to additive manufacturing as the next generation of that implant system, adding design or cost benefit."
IMDS works with metals and plastics
The focus of the EOSINT M 280 system is metals: titanium alloys, cobalt chrome and stainless steel. The other dozen or so additive manufacturing machines at IMDS use a range of proprietary and conventional plastics, including polyetherether ketone (PEEK). Justin said that IMDS is exploring potential development of additively manufactured medical implants made from bioresorbable plastics.
Justin is in charge of the product development arm of IMDS called Co-Innovation, which employs 90, mostly engineers. The two other groups in the company are Discovery Research and Product Sourcing, where products are manufactured. Small injection molding machines are used to test molds developed by IMDS.
IMDS opened its newest Co-Innovation facility in Orlando, Fla., earlier this year. Other IMDS Co-Innovation facilities are located in Logan, Utah; Chandler, Ariz.; and Salt Lake City.
Source: plasticstoday.com, © 2012 UBM Canon
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