At the backdrop of the annual meeting of the American Academic of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) in New Orleans, USA, Renishaw, a global engineering and healthcare technologies company announced that it will be presenting data from a project funded by Renishaw and the UK Government. The project involves investigating the development of load bearing lattice structures for orthopaedic implants.
Load bearing lattice structures are structurally efficient yet complex designs that enable high levels of stiffness and reduce weight. These structures are made up of a continuous network of truss-like members. These truss-like members also referred to as slender beams can be customised into any desired shape such as hollow, square, circular or any shape and even different strengths suitable for specific applications.
Due to their increased complexity, these structures were earlier difficult to manufacture using traditional manufacturing. However, additive manufacturing has now made the design of even complex structures possible and hence Renishaw is now banking on incorporating additively manufactured load bearing lattice structures in implants. This is mainly because it is believed that such structures can provide a scaffold structure or support for new bone tissues to grow. In addition, the spacing and strut thickness of the lattice can also be optimised to match the stiffness of the surrounding bone and can be used to create a strain gradient on the bone – a feature that is believed to repair musculoskeletal system with the help of materials that facilitate bone in-growth and substantially improve patient outcomes.
Speaking about the partnership and about how the use of lattice structure can transform the way orthopaedic implants could be designed in the future, Dr. Jonathan Jeffers, said, “The partnership between Imperial College London and Renishaw is creating really exciting data on new materials that can control the way bone repairs itself. These materials could change the way orthopaedic implants are designed in the future, and certainly provide an opportunity to improve patient outcomes by repairing the musculoskeletal system with materials that can invoke a desired response in bone”.
Renishaw is known to additively manufacture implants using a process called laser powder bed fusion (LPBF). The LPBF is a process where lasers are used to melt metal powder in layers. These layers are as thin as 30 microns. As the powder melts, it transforms into a solid product – a method which allows production of complex, customised designs quickly and with minimum waste.