Here is an excerpt from the following Article on Rapid Prototyping and Additive Manufacturing:
“Rapid prototyping is most appropriate for products that incorporate complex geometries but don’t require extremely tight tolerances, such as reconstructed bones and orthopaedic implants, according to Daniel Anderson, Manager, Prototype Technology & Design at Greatbatch Medical (Clarence, NY, USA).
“Companies in the field of orthopaedic implant development have been heavy users of RP technologies. This makes perfect sense, given the complexity of many orthopaedic implant systems. The trend has continued and Greatbatch Medical consistently partners with a wide range of orthopaedic developers to produce prototypes in both plastic and metal,” Anderson says.
Orthopaedics is also a focus at Arcam (Mölndal, Sweden), which has developed an electron beam technology to melt metallic powder. The technology is especially appropriate for titanium alloys. The advantage of the technology is that it can produce both porous and solid sections, imitating the two types of bone structure: cortical (hard) and trabecular (cancellous) bone. According to Patrik Ohldin, Area Sales Manager at Arcam, manufacturing of orthopaedic implants typically requires a two-step process, since the porous metal cannot be made at the same time as the hard metal.
‘The traditional method of manufacturing is still the most common way to make implants, but it has a big disadvantage, because you can’t make porous materials,” says Ohldin. “[With electron beam melting], you can make the design completely free of boundaries and you can also make it very inexpensively,” Ohldin says. “At the same time, you save a step in the production process.'”