The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is using the additive manufacturing LENS Hybrid Controlled Atmosphere System from Optomec to develop dissolvable magnesium components for medical implants. This ground-breaking work will enable additive manufacturing of custom patient implants that will dissolve in a specific amount of time, eliminating the need for second surgeries which also reduces risks, costs and suffering for patients.
According to Dr. Michael Sealy, Assistant Professor, Mechanical and Materials Engineering at UNL and a pioneer in advanced manufacturing research, the LENS additive system allows him to create different depths and hardnesses in the layer-by-layer deposition process. Then, using a “laser peening” technique similar to shot peening done in more traditional machining, Dr. Sealy is able to alter the mechanical properties of specific layers of magnesium, hardening some layers more than others. The end result is the ability to create an implant that has predictable dissolution times.
The ability to control disintegration of a structure is a highly sought-after design capability – not only for applications in orthopedics, cardiology, and urology but also for other applications areas such as lightweight aerospace and automotive structures.
“We are proud to be the first customer of an Optomec LENS Hybrid Controlled Atmosphere System,” said Dr. Sealy. “Our research is focused on advancing the performance and functionality of dissolvable devices. Using LENS, we are applying a hybrid additive manufacturing process to control the disintegration of medical fasteners and plates, so they stay intact long enough to serve their purpose and then degrade away once the bone is healed.”
Currently, medical implants – such as plates and screws – are made of titanium or stainless steel, which are permanent structures that can have high complication rates and require a second surgery for removal. By using the LENS Hybrid Controlled Atmosphere System to print patient-specific magnesium implants with a controlled time to dissolve, Dr. Sealy’s team is helping eliminate the need for second surgeries and thus also reducing risks, costs and suffering for patients.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a leader in hybrid additive manufacturing and recently established the Nebraska Engineering Additive Technology (NEAT) Labs to create a state-of-the-art regional hub for additive manufacturing research and innovation that enables collaborations among academia and industry.
The Optomec LENS 3D Hybrid Controlled Atmosphere System is an atmosphere-controlled system for additive and subtractive processing of metals, including titanium and aluminum. Optomec LENS hybrid technology combines a CNC automation platform with LENS technology, lowering acquisition cost to bring metal additive manufacturing capabilities to industrial market.
“Two years ago, at IMTS in 2016, Dr. Sealy and his team became the first customer of our LENS Hybrid Controlled Atmosphere system,” said Tom Cobbs, LENS Product Manager at Optomec. Today they are here at IMTS showcasing their groundbreaking accomplishments achieved with their LENS Hybrid system.” Dr. Sealy’s pioneering work enables the design and manufacture of components with a combination of properties unobtainable using traditional metal working methods.”
LENS is a registered trademark of Sandia National Labs; Aerosol Jet is a registered trademark of Optomec.