Metalysis, a metal powder technology company based in Rotherham, UK, has collaborated with the UK’s TWI in Cambridge, to demonstrate the feasibility of its tantalum powder in metal Additive Manufacturing for biomedical applications such as bespoke hip joints. The joint study successfully produced both uniform and randomised tantalum lattice structures that are bio-inert, replicate the structural stiffness of bone and allow for extensive integration with bone cells, so that the new joint is readily accepted by the body.
“It is tremendous to be partnering with TWI, a company that has so much knowledge in the manufacturing and medical industries. TWI has great expertise, particularly in the use of lasers in Additive Manufacturing, which we hope will help to bring individual joint replacements into the mainstream of mass manufacture,” stated Dion Vaughan, Chief Executive of Metalysis.
Metalysis has developed a process that produces metal powders directly from their respective oxides in a single step, drastically lowering the environmental impact of its manufacture. The innovative process is not only cost-competitive, but also produces perfectly spherical metal powders of uniform size so that when used in metal Additive Manufacturing, the end product is structurally consistent and allows for an improvement on the as-built surface finish.
“We have already seen the great success Metalysis has had printing automotive parts. Our analysis suggests these metals are incredibly versatile and highly suited to the medical industry. Metal 3D-printed hip replacements could be a huge step forward, allowing patients to have a tailor-made joint by scanning their other hip and matching it with a metal 3D-printed replacement, rather than being restricted to the choice of standard sizes now available,” added Richard Pargeter, a technology fellow at TWI.
This study has proved that the durability and inertness of this highly versatile metal are retained through the production process. It has demonstrated the significant potential of creating lattice structures using selective laser melting for use in hip joints, implants and other new biomedical products that will both benefit patient wellbeing and bring cost savings to the wider market.
Since the launch of its commercial plant in 2015, Metalysis has been supplying tantalum powder to its clients globally, working in collaboration with LPW Technology to serve its Additive Manufacturing customers.