H.C. Starck Tantalum and Niobium GmbH - a trendsetter in the development of bio-compatible alloys for 3D printing applications

Munich, Germany, April 12, 2018. H.C. Starck Tantalum and Niobium GmbH offers titanium, tantalum and niobium based alloys, that meet the most demanding requirements and the latest standards of modern medical technology. “We are proud to be one of the trendsetters in the development of bio-compatible alloys used in the fabrication of customized 3D printed implants” says Dr. Melanie Stenzel, Head of Marketing & New Business Development of H.C. Starck Tantalum and Niobium GmbH.

Additive manufacturing, known also as 3D-printing, provides the possibility to produce complex, individually customized implants. A unique advantage of the 3D printing process is the possibility to optimize their structure in accordance to the expected load distribution.

Orthopedic and dental implants are exposed to high mechanical loading during their lifetime. Even though many current materials used in the direct metal 3D printing processes, like stainless steel and cobalt-chrome alloys, can cope with the mechanical stresses, there are concerns regarding their release of toxic or allergenic elements that could result in inflammation of surrounding tissue and rejection of the implant.

Challenge of biocompatibility

An important prerequisite of all implants is their biocompatibility. As they remain in the body for a longer period of time, the materials used in additive manufacturing processes, cannot have any effect on living organisms, regardless of the technology used to produce the implant. The proof of biocompatibility of these materials is a primary approval criterion for official regulatory approval of 3D printed implants.

Innovative materials for best results

AMPERTEC Spherical Ti-42Nb powders as well as tantalum-containing alloys are produced using an electrode induction-melting gas atomization (EIGA) process. The powders are fully spherical with a negligible amount of satellites (Fig. 1). The spheroidal shape of the powders improves the processing capabilities in 3D-printing processes. 


Fig. 1: SEM images of gas-atomized AMPERTEC Spherical Ti-42Nb powders at 100 x(left) and 1000x (right) magnification

Because of their unique processing properties, AMPERTEC Spherical Ti-42Nb powders can be printed to almost full density (99.95%) using the selective laser melting process. The resulting internal stresses are at a low level, and therefore thermal post-processing such as diffusion annealing or HIP are typically not required.

Proved Quality

The phase composition is not affected by the laser melting process; similar to the atomized powders, as-printed Ti-42Nb is pure ?-phase. Printed parts have a fine-grained microstructure with extremely homogeneous elemental distribution. Scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy investigations confirms that there is no segregation of Ti or Nb-rich phases in the powders.

Mechanical analysis by means of tensile and compression tests exhibit a combination of high elasticity and strength. The closer match of Ti-42Nb in tensile elasticity to that of cortical bone means that the stress shielding between bone and implant and associated inflammation or implant loosening, due to mechanical mismatches, is reduced.

“The materials we have developed show excellent biocompatibility in comparison to commonly used alloys. Moreover, they have better mechanical properties, particularly regarding the higher elasticity, near to that of cortical bone, in comparison to conventionally applied implant materials. Therefore, the stress shielding between bone and implant and associated inflammation or implant loosening due to mechanical mismatches is suppressed. Our new AMPERTEC Spherical Ti-42Nb powders represent the new generation of powders with excellent properties, best suited for these demanding medical applications”- Melanie Stenzel says.

For more information please visit our homepage: www.hcstarck.com or send us your questions by e-mail on: ampertec3DP@hcstarck.com


H.C. Starck press office, represented by:
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