they needed to know more about available materials and the range of geometries and features achievable. Our partnership with EOS satisfies both sides of the equation, combining EOS’ AM expertise with our sophistication at walking customers through the development and approval stages. Andrew Snow: On our side, it’s about a triangle of knowl-
edge consisting of our materials, machines, and—this is im- portant—the process-build parameters of each part. As with every patient, every application is different, whether you’re working with an ankle implant, a toe implant, or a hip cup. Oſten the most challenging aspect of presenting our
technology to the marketplace is educating the OEM on how to incorporate it into a complete end-to-end process chain as part of a broader manufacturing cell. Tat’s where IMDS is invaluable to us. Teir experience with medical product devel- opment includes the major medical companies, and it expands beyond that to well-known clinics and even to hospitals and surgeons. Tere’s a natural synergy between their capabilities and ours. Are projects involving the creation of laser-sintered medi-
cal products underway now? Siemer: Definitely, and in several different areas. One is an
acetabular hip cup with porous structures to promote osseoin- tegration, or bone growth. Conventionally it can be cast, or cast and machined, and then made porous through extra finishing. With laser sintering, we can build the cup and pores in a single step. We can make the pores gradient, so that the cup is solid in one place for maximum strength, and variably porous elsewhere for different bone growth. We’re talking with various compa- nies about similar implants, such as tibial trays, and also spinal implants, extremities, and products for sports medicine.
the same as their conventional counterparts?’ EOS and its suppliers have worked long and hard for more than a decade to produce equivalent materials. For medical applications, two of the common materials for DMLS are titanium—Ti64—and cobalt chrome, close analogs of metals that are already in widespread use and meet ASTM medical standards. Te mate- rial we procure from EOS is certified. IMDS has run stainless steel in the past, and we’re using titanium now. Our DMLS system has the capability to run other metals as well. Snow: Not only is the material we provide IMDS medically
certified, we go beyond that, testing it thoroughly in-house on both new and legacy systems for maximum consistency and repeatability of performance, from build to build and from system to system. Siemer: Oſten the next thing we hear is, ‘How much does
it cost to build my existing part geometry in additive manu- facturing?’ Part of our job is educating customers that instead of asking this, they really need to look closely at the design freedom laser sintering offers and take full advantage of it. Once they make that leap, they create new parts that have enhanced complex structures, such as micro-expanding or locking features, that offer new biomechanical advances. Te more complex the part geometry—for instance, a latticework to reduce weight—the likelier it is that it’s best manufactured with AM. Beyond being early adopters, what convinces companies
to partner with you? Snow: Te opportunity for mass customization is generat-
ing a lot of excitement in medical design. By far, the biggest impact laser sintering has on medical products is that they can be cost-effectively patient-specific, with no extra cost
Laser-sintered medical products “can be cost-effectively patient-specific, with no extra cost for manufacturing a part with a production volume of one.”
Snow: Each global region is different and regulations vary.
Currently, Europe is further along than the US in bringing these types of products to market; they’ve had a great many successes already. Tey’re implanting around 8000 porous metal cups annually in humans. Also, EOS has a separate certified dental process for the manufacturing of patient-spe- cific copings and bridges. Even titanium abutments are being manufactured in Europe via laser sintering, for example. What helps people see the advantages of developing prod-
ucts with your partnership? Siemer: We identify and work with the kind of people who
are early adopters of new technology, so they’re quite open to considering it. Once we begin talking to them about their potential product, they nearly all ask first: ‘Are the materials
62 Medical Manufacturing 2013
for manufacturing a part with a production volume of one. Everything from cranial implants to surgical instrumenta- tion—like cutting and drilling guides—can be tailored to both the patient’s and the surgeon’s needs. As with all business decisions, adoption always comes
down to return on investment [ROI]. If we can demonstrate to a company that the ROI on their product is there, and if we also can reduce their time to market, they’ll be very open to our technology. Siemer: Oſten competition is a motivator for companies.
If they’ve heard of a successful product made with AM, they feel they need to explore the technology just to keep up. Since our partnership offers them a means to be informed about laser sintering and to ‘try before they buy,’ they can do their