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3D Metal Printing Improves Implant Performance

Significant benefits in strength and porosity added to orthopaedic implants

Metal surfaced coatings are applied to orthopaedic implants to give a 3-dimensional array of pores. This coating helps promote bone tissue ingrowth and provide long-term stability of the implant.

The traditional processes used to apply this coating include sintering and plasma spraying. However, in a recent comparative study carried out on acetabular cups, direct metal transfer (DMT) 3D metal printing technology was shown to provide a number of significant benefits in terms of strength and porosity.

3D metal printing

An economic alternative

3D metal printing technology melts commercially available metal powders using a high powered laser and produces complex metal structures from a 3D CAD file. The use of these readily available powders makes the process extremely economical – a significant driver in its successful introduction across industry.

In the comparative study, the specially developed InssTek MPC machine’s output was measured against that of a titanium plasma spray (TPS) process. The coating produced used pure Titanium with a thickness of 0.7mm.

The results showed that the 3D metal printing process delivered an 83% improvement on porosity, a key attribute in the promotion of bone tissue ingrowth. Tensile stress showed a significant 17% improvement and sheer stress 7%.

Further improvements in economy come from the fact that the InssTek MPC is less expensive than most TPS machines. Also, the cycle times for the 3D coating process on the acetabular cups was between 12 and 18 minutes – considerably faster than alternative technologies with a commensurate increase in productivity.

For more information on the InssTek MPC and the complete range of InssTek’s DMT 3D metal printers, please contact