Research tool for ceramic bone implants
As one of the oldest and most prestigious research-lead universities in Europe, KU Leuven is an institution that is always seeking to innovate and stay on top of the latest trends and technologies. When it comes to manufacturing, the institution is an advocate of additive processes and dedicates a research group to the technology. KU Leuven also offers a post-graduate course on additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing, to provide the next generation of engineers with a breadth and depth of understanding on the topic.
The university is always seeking to promote the use of additive production processes in wider industry and as such has the ability to create high quality parts for real world applications. Consequently, KU Leuven made the decision to purchase an XJet Carmel 1400C 3D printer, which was installed in the latter half of 2019. For XJet, this marked the first installation of its NanoParticle Jetting technology-based systems at an academic institution in Europe.
For the team at KU Leuven, the motivation for implementing the Xjet Carmel system was to equip themselves with the means to produce parts with intricate levels of detail, short production times and without the need for lengthy post processing. These benefits have allowed researchers at the university to begin exploring various medical applications, including ceramic bone implants and dentures.
Professor Shoufeng Yang, who heads AM research at the university, is known worldwide for his many years of study in the field of additive manufacturing at various academic institutions. He made clear his belief that XJet NanoParticle Jetting technology is pushing the limits of innovation made possible by AM. “Since the Carmel was installed, we have already been reaping the benefits,” Professor Yang said. “The XJet system offers the high levels of precision and exceptional detailing required, levels which were previously impossible or extremely time-consuming in post-processing. The use of soluble support material, with no harmful powders, makes it a much easier process and opens up opportunities to innovate that simply did not exist before. It’s an amazing and fantastic technology for R&D in universities and for the manufacturing industry, and it’s very exciting to be a part of.” He added the belief this is the best ceramic additive manufacturing method which can be easily upgraded into future multi-materials additive manufacturing. That is a challenge in the AM industry.
Professor Yang has been involved in additive manufacturing for more than 20 years and going forward, he and the team at KU Leuven are focused on the medical industries, having already produced several implants. They believe that their aim, to spread the use of AM across the manufacturing world, will be made possible with the Carmel. The system will thus allow them to accelerate their research and development of additive manufacturing across Europe.
Institutions like KU Leuven University are essential to the ongoing growth of AM and specifically medical AM, allowing for breakthrough research developments. As an institution at the forefront of AM development, KU Leuven hopes the investment will help it to expand its network of collaborators and broaden the scope of its production projects even further.