Optomec LENS Metal Hybrid Manufactures Dissolvable Medical Implants

The dissolvable metal implants could help eliminate the need for second surgeries, reducing risks, costs and suffering for patients.

Optomec has unveiled details regarding how the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is using a LENS Hybrid Controlled Atmosphere System to develop dissolvable magnesium components that could have implications in the design and manufacture of medical implants. This work will enable patient-specific 3D-printed implants with controlled time to dissolve, eliminating the need for second surgeries and thus also reducing risks, costs and suffering for patients.
 
“Our research is focused on advancing the performance and functionality of dissolvable devices,” says Dr. Michael Sealy, assistant professor, mechanical and materials engineering at UNL. “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, Dr. Sealy’s team is helping eliminate the need for second surgeries and thus also reducing risks, costs and suffering for patients.
 
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.  Dr. Sealy uses 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, Dr. Sealy is also investigating innovative hybrid processing techniques of 7000 series aluminum for the Navy.