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Coatings: Trends and Technologies in the Orthopaedic Industry

As the orthopaedic industry has evolved, so too have coatings for implants and instruments. BONEZONE queried five companies to better understand trends in coatings, as well as ways that device companies can work with suppliers to adapt new technologies and overcome regulatory and cost barriers.

Parimal Bapat, Ph.D, Research Engineer, Orchid Orthopedic Solutions
Ulf Brogren, CEO, Promimic
Céline Harnisch, Marketing and Technical Support, Alhenia
Richard Vandevelde, Founder and President, MedicalGroup
Tim Zentz, Sales Manager, Danco Anodizing

BONEZONE: What trends in coatings do you see in devices used in the orthopaedic industry?

Parimal Bapat, Ph.D.: While most OEMs still heavily rely upon traditional coatings, such as sintered bead and plasma sprayed metallic coatings, more customers have shown interest in coatings that have certain surface properties, such as high roughness, interconnected porosity, etc. There is a growing interest amongst customers for 3-D printed implants, which allow one to design and build an entire implant with the coating in one single process. As far as the hydroxyapatite (HA) coatings, customers still heavily rely on traditional plasma sprayed HA coatings. There have been requests from customers to develop solution-based HA coatings that will allow one to have the HA coating inside of the porous structures, which is not possible with plasma sprayed HA coating.

Ulf Brogren: Product differentiation will be key to success in many implant market segments, because the majority of implants currently available on the market have similar designs and functions. Also, as the market shifts due to changing demographics and growing health problems, the demand for high-performing implants is increasing. Combining novel implant designs with coatings, adding the right bone chemistry for better and faster integration, will be one important solution to these problems. Promimic sees an increasing demand in coatings from these marketing and clinical perspectives.

Within the spine segment, development teams of the leading spine implant companies seem to be evaluating coatings of PEEK-interbody devices at this moment. The reasoning for this is to create devices that actually integrate with bone, in order to support a better and faster fusion.

Céline Harnisch: Nowadays, coatings are accepted and widespread in the medical field. Various new applications with different processes have developed, such as new coatings techniques and new materials to be coated. Innovative coatings were also brought to market, offering anti-infective solutions for orthopaedic implants. In this way, antibiotics or biofilms are deposited onto the coated surface.

Richard Vandevelde: When I started MedicalGroup 25 years ago, our two core businesses were plasma spray coatings and HA manufacturing. At that time, very few implants had porous coatings. Nowadays, more implants have porous coatings. These implants are found throughout the different markets, such as extremities, spine, dental and even trauma, in addition to the traditional hips and knees. The goal is to create bone attachment to the implant and quicker bone generation, which will increase the stability and life of the implant and therefore drastically decrease revision rates. Also, all types of substrates can now be coated: Ti, SST, CoCr, PE and PEEK.

In addition, we have noticed that larger OEMs are integrating plasma spray coating capabilities, either for HA or titanium. Their goal is to control this very specific process by being their own first or second source.

We help our customers with those two issues. First, by providing surface treatment services (Ti and HA plasma spray coatings, RBM, low temperature deposition of HA) on orthopaedic, spine and dental implants. Second, we manufacture HA and titanium powders. We handle plasma spray coatings and supply the powders, allowing us to assist our customers with their coating specifications, equipment set-up and validation.

Tim Zentz: Although some feel that coatings are cost drivers, we feel that there are trends where organizations can realize potential cost savings when evaluating increased performance or increased life expectancy of a product when coatings are applied. Coatings such as Type 2 titanium anodizing, per AMS 2488, will increase fatigue strength, add lubricity and improve surface finish. In addition, Danco’s Low Friction Chrome Coating process, per AMS 2460, for stainless steel instruments will increase the life of an instrument through added corrosion resistance, lubricity and increased hardness.