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Manufacturing process for customised medical implants

In September 2013, TWI embarked on a collaborative  project, ImplantDirect, funded by the EC to develop more patient-driven, personalised and effective medical implants, to ultimately improve patients’ quality of life. By allowing surgeons to customise implants for patients using selective laser melting, pain and tissue damage, surgery time  and recovery time will all be reduced. The project will result in a pre-production prototype system, validated by pre-clinical trials.

The primary disadvantages of current manufacturing procedures for personalised implants are the time and cost required for the design and the possible need for a surgical robot to perform the bone resection. These disadvantages may be eliminated by  additive manufacturingtechnologies, especially the use of selective laser melting to enable quick and economical fabrication of patient specific implant components. 

It is estimated that there are approximately 500,000 people admitted to hospital every year across Europe, who have suffered some bone, joint, maxillofacial trauma or degenerative diseases that require surgical attention using a customised implant, while 2.4 million people are injured or disabled each year by road traffic accidents in Europe.

The research and development work to be undertaken in ImplantDirect will help and support a consortium of SMEs to form a supply-chain approach, which will be able to manufacture patient specific implants and reduce the current lead-time from 4-6 weeks to 7 days. This will involve using CT-scanning to determine and optimise the design of the proposed implant and fixations required. 

Also, in order to manufacture the personalised implants; the additive manufacturing  technology of selective laser melting will be used for reducing the build time for the implants and post-processing will ensure the required quality and accuracy. 

The selective laser melting process starts by numerically slicing a 3D CAD model into a number of finite layers. For each sliced layer a laser scan path is calculated which defines both the boundary contour and some form of fill sequence, often a raster pattern. Each layer is then sequentially recreated by depositing powder layers, one on top of the other, and melting their surface by scanning a laser beam. The powder is spread uniformly by a wiper. A high power-density fibre laser with a 20µm beam spot size fully melts the pre-deposited powder layer. The melted particles fuse and solidify to form a layer of the component.  

TWI also has expertise in laser welding, laser cutting,  hybrid laser arc welding,  nuclear decommissioning and  laser surfacing.

Useful Links: 

  • Additive Manufacturing
  • Laser Metal Deposition 
  • Selective Laser Melting
  • Implant Direct 

Further technical knowledge can be found here: case studiespublished papers and FAQs

If you require further information or have any questions please email