ChoiceSpine’s latest innovations surround the emergence of additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) in their product development process. This new form of manufacturing was utilized in the production of Tiger Shark™ and Hawkeye™ TI, and has allowed for ChoiceSpine engineers to implement features that weren’t previously possible, such as fully-porous structures and unique internal and external design features that improve the performance of the implants.
What is Additive Manufacturing?
Additive manufacturing is a transformative approach to industrial production that enables the creation of lighter, stronger parts and systems. In traditional manufacturing, material is removed or subtracted from the raw material to arrive at the final product. Additive manufacturing is essentially the reverse of this process — meaning that the object is created by machines depositing the raw material layer by layer until the final product is created.
How Does Additive Manufacturing Work?
Similar traditional manufacturing, additive manufacturing begins with a design using a Computer-Aided-Design (CAD) software. Despite the constraints that additive manufacturing eliminates, designers utilizing this method must take new constraints into consideration, including determining the support structure locations and build orientation during the design of a part. Once the design is completed, the CAD file is sliced into layers using the 3D printing software and a pattern is created from each layer that includes details such as geometry and power needed to melt the powder. The next step is printing, which can take anywhere from minutes to several days depending on the complexity and size of the device. Printing involves applying a layer of powdered material to the plate and sintering the layer based on its specifications, repeating this process layer by layer until it is ready for post-processing, which includes additional heat treatments and laser marking as needed until the final part is created.
What are the Primary Benefits in the Spinal Surgery arena?
Because traditional manufacturing involves subtracting from the raw material, there are many limits to what can be created beneath the surface layer of a material within the product. With additive manufacturing, each layer of the material can include detailed characteristics that previously would not have been possible. For ChoiceSpine, this allowed the creation of titanium implants with much less material, making them more radiolucent and allowing for porosity and surface roughness to be designed into the implant for enhanced bone ingrowth. Additive manufacturing is also expected to provide a cost-advantage by aiding the ability to mass-produce various designs and sizes of implants quickly.
The Future Looks Bright
Additive manufacturing is already an exciting innovation for ChoiceSpine due to the immediate impact it’s had on their product development process, but seeing the innovative devices in action confirms that the process will be a true game-changer.
“The emergence of additive techniques in the medical device industry, specifically in spine, has reset the bar on the types of designs product development engineers can create,” said Steve Ainsworth, ChoiceSpine’s Executive Vice President of Strategy and Technology. “We are already seeing the improvement in implant performance, clinically, thanks to these new designs that were just not possible with traditional manufacturing techniques.”
According to Ainsworth, the opportunities that come along with additive manufacturing aren’t limited to the features included in Tiger Shark and Hawkeye TI.
“We are just at the beginning,” said Ainsworth. “As more materials become available for additive manufacturing and more manufacturing techniques are mastered, implants will become more treatment and patient-specific, which will lead to better outcomes for the patient.”
Stay tuned to hear about ChoiceSpine’s latest breakthroughs in additive manufacturing for spinal surgery devices.
Executive Vice President of Strategy and Technology
Having over 20 years of experience in medical device design and development, Steve now manages and leads R&D, Operations, Regulatory, Marketing and Business Development for ChoiceSpine. Steve is a named inventor on over 35 issued US patents and received a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer along with both an MS and PhD in Bioengineering from Clemson University.
ChoiceSpine is a privately-held spinal device company located in Knoxville, TN. The Company prides itself on providing excellent products and exceptional service to meet the needs of their customers. ChoiceSpine offers a breadth of innovative and surgeon-focused systems that are designed to be safe, efficient and easy-to-use. By working closely with physicians and maintaining a service-focused distribution, ChoiceSpine will continue to bring technically-superior spinal products to market.