AM capabilities shown by Renishaw collaboration

Gloucestershire-based Renishaw has collaborated with two advanced-technology companies to demonstrate the advantages of additive manufacturing (AM) in the production of spinal implants.

Its work with Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) and nTopology shows how streamlined the transition from design to AM can be when working with the right partners.

IMR designed a representative titanium spinal implant, aimed at the cervical spine (c spine), using advanced-manufacturing software company nTopology’s generative design software.

IMR then made the implants using Renishaw’s RenAM 500M metal AM system.

Ed Littlewood, Renishaw’s Medical and Dental Products Division marketing manager, said: “AM can be used to manufacture spinal implants with lattice structures that cannot be achieved with conventional manufacturing techniques.”

“An implant with a lattice structure is lightweight, can be optimised to meet the required loading conditions and has a greater surface area, which can aid osseo-integration.”

“AM implants can be designed to mimic the mechanical properties of bone, resulting in better patient outcomes, but all of this comes to nothing if you do not have the tools to create the design.”

Matt Rohr, nTopology’s application engineering manager, said: “Traditional CAD tools weren’t built to design complex lattice structures; the job would be difficult or even impossible. nTopology was structured to complement existing work-flows and make the job easier.”

“We cut the design time of complex structures from days to minutes, which was a crucial component in helping this project run to schedule.”

Sean McConnell, IMR senior research engineer, said: “Renishaw worked tirelessly with us on improving the AM process for producing the spinal implants.”

“Together, we designed a set of experiments that yield the most appropriate parameter settings for the product.”

“As a result, we reduced the amount of post-processing required on key features of the implants by a factor of 10.”