An innovative machine developed under Custom IMD research activities paves the way for processing a new class of high performance polymers –a technology which is expected to allow the production of customised implant products in only 48 hours. The development is one of the results being discussed during the Custom IMD review meeting, which is taking place in Munich (Germany) this Thursday, 24th of September, and tomorrow. Produced by EOS, a leading German manufacturer of laser-sintering systems and member of Custom IMD consortium, the EOSINT P 800 is the first rapid manufacturing machine able to process thermoplastic material like PEEK under high temperatures. PEEK is a high performance polymer, known for its outstanding mechanical and chemical resistance. Its special properties, along with its lightness, make PEEK a promising substitute for stainless steel and titanium in a range of industrial applications such as aeronautic. However, its melting point requires temperatures higher than 220oC, which none of the commercially available laser-sintering systems were able to achieve. Until now, PEEK polymers were mainly processed through injection moulding processes. “This high performance material is very suitable for long life implants such as the prosthesis we are developing under Custom IMD. It is well-known and biocompatibility approved when used for conventional production of implants”, claims Joerg Lenz, project coordinator. “What we did was to set up a laser-sintering manufacturing process to take most advantages of this toolless generative technology”, he adds. The EOSINT P 800 works by using digital data collected directly from patients, ensuring a highly customised implant. Then, by laser-sintering, the machine melts the polymeric powder material and builds up the product layer by layer in a very short timeframe. The machine is already commercially available and it was first made public during EuroMold in Frankfurt (Germany) last December 2008. Another result presented in the meeting was a new polymeric material developed by Dutch partner SupraPolix. Specifically designed for the use in bone substitutes, this new polymer combines easy thermal processing with the desired biocompatibility, biodegradability and bioactivity in a single material. Together with the FDM rapid manufacturing technology from Dutch partner TNO, customized implants have been generated allowing faster patient recovery, in line with the main objective of Custom IMD. Cranio-maxillofacial surgeons and researchers of the University Hospital Maastricht (The Netherlands) and the University Hasselt (Belgium) will validate these new technologies and materials from a clinical point of view in cooperation with the medical engineers of the University Maastricht (IDEE). They will present these new evolving technologies at the Euromold 2009, in Frankfurt (Germany), during the Terry Wohlers Conference. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT The project also has a special focus on the environment. Therefore, one of the goals of Custom IMD project is to compare the environmental impact of the new customised implants to current processes. Using EcoScan, a software tool developed by Dutch Custom IMD partner TNO to model the results of the environmental analysis, the researchers carried out a preliminary study to identify which phase of the current implant process has the largest impact on the environment. The results pointed out the patient care stage, especially surgical procedures and hospitalisation, as having the largest impact due to high energy consumption in hospitals during this phase. The result has been based on data from both the US and EU hospital sector combined with cost analysis performed by Dutch partner SPMC Group. ABOUT CUSTOM IMD Custom IMD is a European research consortium which aims to provide industry with a breakthrough concept in high customised implants. Medical devices will be designed, manufactured, sterilized and delivered in a 48-hours time frame, fitting the specific needs and physical characteristics of each patient. The core project activities include the development of biomaterials as well as the use of Rapid Manufacturing technologies applied to the project needs. The first investigation lines are focusing their studies on cranial, spinal implants and dental restorations. Led by Ascamm Technology Centre (Barcelona, Spain), the consortium is formed by 23 partners from seven European countries. Starting its activities in 2007, the project has four years duration with a budget of 9.8 million Euros. About 50% of this amount will be funded by the European Commission within the Sixth Framework Programme for R&D. For further information, please visit www.customimd.eu.
Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, Poland