Micro implants out of the laser printer

July 21, 2015 // By Smart2.0
Micro implants out of the laser printer
Additive manufacturing techniques – also known as 3D printing – are particularly well suited for medical implants, be they customised microimplants or implants with integrated drug depot. Scientists from the Laser Zentrum Hannover (LZH) have developed a laser beam melting process that enables automatic manufacturing and coating of implants made from stainless steel, platinum or nickel titanium (NiTi).

The scientists from the LZH’s Surface Technology group used a special form of 3D printing, called Selective Laser Micro Melting (SLμM). With equipment that in part as particularly developed for this purpose they could coat pacemaker electrodes with platinum and generate three-dimensional lattice structure of NiTi as well as stainless steel stent prototypes. The successful processing of platinum in the microscale has been demonstrated for the first time at this opportunity.

One approach to increase the lifetime of pacemakers is intelligently adapting the shape and surface of the electrode. Platinum exhibits excellent electrical conductivity and is bio-inert. However, the casting ability of this metal is regarded as very limited, and in micro dimensions it is difficult to process. Within the project, the scientists were able to develop a SLμM method for a platinum-iridium alloy and thus successfully coat pacemaker electrodes.

The shape memory alloy NiTi is already widely used in medical technology. Microimplants of NiTi open up new possibilities to produce patient-customized stents or bone substitute. Scientists at the LZH have been able to produce highly complex, three-dimensional structures from NiTi. Meanwhile it is possible to achieve component resolutions up to 90 µm under complete preservation of the shape memory properties.

The processing of stainless steel 316 L in the SLμM method is already established. Within the project stent structures with closed cell design have been designed and manufactured. With regards to their mechanical properties, these reach the quality of conventional stents.

The project was carried out together with the Institute of Biomedical Engineering Faculty of Medicine, University of Rostock as part of project of the joint project REMEDIS, which has been supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Further information: https://www.lzh.de/en

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