Amorphous implants (here radius plates) from the 3D printer adapt to the movements of the bones and facilitate the healing process.
Recent research by Heraeus Amloy together with the University of Graz is investigating the use of amorphous metals (also known as metallic glass) for 3D printing or injection molding processes in medical applications, such as orthopedic implants.
Specifically, the company is researching patient-specific implants and how they can be manufactured and used in close cooperation with clinics as part of the "Clinical Additive Manufacturing for Medical Applications" (CAMed) project.
3D-manufactured amorphous implants are biocompatible and can be individually adapted to the patient's anatomy, which is particularly advantageous in the case of complex fractures. The process also saves material because the laser only builds structures where they are needed.
Initial findings from the CAMed project are promising – additively manufactured implants with plus points for patients and hospitals are thus within reach. Other applications such as prostheses or heart valves are also conceivable.
Research has demonstrated that amorphous metals have suitable properties for use in medical technology. Because they are formed by shock-freezing metallic melts, the atoms have no way of forming a crystalline lattice, and they solidify in a disordered (amorphous) manner. This disordered internal structure makes the material corrosion-resistant, extremely strong and at the same time highly elastic. As a result, it can be used close to the bone as well as cut to size individually, and even thinner plates are stable.
"Amorphous metals have a number of advantages over steel and titanium: This material combines the benefits of strength and elasticity. It adapts perfectly to the bone, promotes recovery and is also very well tolerated, as it can be implanted without cell deformation," said Valeska Melde, Head of Marketing & Sales at Heraeus Amloy.
Heraeus Amloy is currently developing new alloys for the production of implants. "As part of the CAMed project, we are currently testing the AMLOY-ZR02 alloy. Its main component is high-purity zirconium, and it has already been certified as biocompatible," said Jürgen Wachter, head of the Heraeus Amloy business unit. The company is the only manufacturer worldwide to offer two different process technologies. In addition to additive manufacturing, amorphous metals can also be processed by injection molding. The latter would be particularly suitable for mass production of surgical screws or instruments, for example.