One of the key applications of additive manufacturing is in the development of spinal implants. The team at Nexxt Spine are pioneers in the design and development of spinal fusion implants that incorporate interconnected micro-lattice architectures with the goal of promoting osteoconduction, osteointegration, and boney fusion. They found that additive technology not only adds value to their products, it is helping their company grow as well.
“Additive is booming,” says Alaedeen Abu-Mulaweh, director of engineering at Nexxt Spine a medical device company focused on designing, manufacturing and distributing innovative spinal implant solutions. The company designs and manufactures 100% of its implants exclusively from its facility in Noblesville, Indiana. Abu-Mulaweh began his additive journey two years ago.
Established in 2009 and initially producing speciality spinal screws, rods, and plates using conventional subtractive manufacturing techniques, Nexxt Spine’s first investment in metal additive technology was the acquisition of its first Concept Laser Mlab 100R in 2017.
“We used the first Mlab primarily for R&D purposes, but we soon realised that further investment in additive technology could add value not only to our overall growth strategy, but also at a clinical application level with the ability to develop implants with very intricate micro-geometries that could maximise healing. Over the past two years, we have made a seamless jump from R&D to serial production and in doing so have significantly accelerated the time from concept to commercialization,” Alaedeen continues.
The investment in Concept Laser Mlab machines has allowed the Nexxt Spine team to take ownership of the entire design, production and distribution process in-house, eliminating the need for contract manufacturers, thereby accelerating the speed of development and commercialization.
Focus on core science
One of Nexxt Spine’s flagship products, launched in 2017 is its Nexxt Matrixx System – a collection of porous titanium spinal fusion implants that interweave highly differentiated surface texturing technology with novel 3D-printed cellular scaffolding.
However, while other medical manufacturers have used additive manufacturing to develop devices that directly mimic bone’s trabecular geometry, Nexxt Spine chose to deviate from the status quo and instead blend cellular porosity, inspired by natural bone biology, with core engineering fundamentals to develop structurally sound devices, optimized for fusion.
“Titanium – porous or otherwise – is physically incapable of biological remodeling, so using additive to directly mimic the structural randomness of bone doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Rather than simply looking like bone, Nexxt Matrixx was designed with functionality in mind to fulfil our vision of actively facilitating the body’s natural power of cellular healing,” continues Alaedeen.
“We are seeing ongoing adoption of additive manufacturing in the orthopaedic industry and an exciting shift from research and development to serial production. Early innovators like Nexxt Spine are scaling up and there is a significant increase in production volumes,” says Stephan Zeidler, senior global and key accounts director for the medical sector at GE Additive.
Additive opens up new frontiers
With design, manufacturing and distributions functions in-house, combined with the shift to serial additive manufacturing production, Nexxt Spine is well-placed to service and scale, as needed, to meet the growth in demand for spinal fusion device.
“Like I said, additive is absolutely booming. It is driving our business and innovation strategy forward and our design team is actively developing and testing new applications, parameters and surgical devices to target new markets. We are excited for what the future holds for us,” comments Alaedeen.