Additive manufactured part 3d printed in laser fused metal powder

3D metal printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a healthcare revolution. Founded in the 1980s, this technology is not only driven by speed and lower cost, it is transforming and enriching patients’ lives. It removes many of the limitations seen in more traditional healthcare manufacturing methods, and opens up the possibilities for innovations that are both structurally and medicinally customised to the patient.

Transforming technology and improving patient care is at the heart of the new Centre for Custom Medical Devices (CMD) at the University of Birmingham. The Centre, due to launch in October 2018, will bring together multidisciplinary expertise to explore the full potential of additive manufacturing in the medical devices sector – creating a new generation of innovations that will enhance patients’ quality of life.

In collaboration with Renishaw, and with support from the Medical Devices Testing and Evaluation Centre (MD-TEC) (supported through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)), the Healthcare Technologies Institute (HTI), and Birmingham Health Partners (BHP), the Centre will cultivate new industrial and clinical partnerships to translate these innovations into medical devices that will be tailored to the patient. 

The Centre will innovate at all stages of the medical device supply chain, from implant simulation and novel designs, through to manufacturing prosthetics that overcome healthcare challenges such as infection.

3D printing machines

Renishaw, a world leader in the field of additive manufacturing, is the only UK business that designs and makes industrial machines which ‘print’ parts from metal powder. Renishaw’s healthcare products are designed to improve medical research and surgical procedures. The Centre, located in the School of Metallurgy and Materials at the University of Birmingham, contains two Renishaw RenAM 500M metal 3D printing machines. This state-of-the-art 3D equipment will allow for the design, manufacturing and evaluation of 3D printed metal implantable medical devices. 

Dr Sophie Cox, Lecturer in Healthcare Technologies at the Healthcare Technologies Institute, said:

“Additive manufacturing increases the design freedom for medical devices. Using Renishaw’s technology will allow us the flexibility in implant geometry, material choice and surface finishing.”

“We chose Renishaw because of its experience as a custom medical device manufacturer,” added Dr Cox. “Renishaw has a wealth of expertise in taking medical devices to market. This partnership is just the beginning of a pipeline of activities, where we will align our research capabilities with Renishaw’s know-how to realise the benefits of additive manufacturing for patients.”

Healthcare impact and innovation

The Centre will further grow the impact of the University’s additive manufacturing healthcare developments, generate a pipeline of collaborative research projects with Renishaw and other businesses, and will allow the cultivation of new industrial partnerships.

The University has several active projects to innovate novel medical devices and technologies to regenerate disease or injury, covering different clinical remits. Working with UK business, Accentus Medical, the team is applying technology to an additive manufacturing implant surface to reduce the likelihood of infection, a project which could dramatically impact patient’s quality of life.

 Bryan Austin, Director and General Manager of Medical and Dental Products, Renishaw, said:

“By collaborating with industrial, academic and clinical partners, it is possible to develop medical devices more quickly and at a lower costm which will benefit the lives of patients receiving the implants.”

The Centre for Custom Medical Devices will officially launch in October 2018.