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Additive manufacturing solves obvious and persistent problems in orthopedics

For the production of medical devices, doctors and patients are reliant upon custom-made designs or individualized small series. The high costs of metallic biocompatible materials and their processing increase total expenses. Cobalt alloys are difficult to machine as shape complexity rises. Therefore some implants are obtained by casting or traditional metal powder processing methods, which require tooling and is costly for small or unique series. As titanium is relatively difficult to cast in complicated shapes, titanium ingots are machined.

Recently, medical equipment manufacturers are increasingly adopting metal additive manufacturing technologies (direct metal laser sintering and electron beam melting) into the design and manufacturing of medical implants. The early use of this advanced manufacturing route for patient specific implants is encouraging. In conjunction with surgeons, engineers can produce more advanced and anatomical conforming implants and prosthesis, exploiting the power of medical imaging (X-ray, MRI, CT scans, etc…). They can build medical implants in nearly any imaginable geometry and sometimes within 24 hours.

Rapid manufacturing of custom implant is a highly valuable ability where standard implants are often insufficient for some patients facing complex cases. Previously, surgeons had to perform bone graft surgeries, use scalpels or drill implants in metal and plastic to obtain a desired shape, size, and fit.
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