London-based Betatype are an advanced manufacturing company that found a new way to improve orthopaedic care. While current methods of developing implants already have a lot of 3D printing, the field still has areas of improvement. More specifically, Betatype identified a means of making crucial, metal orthapaedic implants far lighter and materially efficient with the use of their Engine software. It also enables the serial production of medical necessities, optimising time and machine usage.
Engine, the company’s data processing technology, uses a lot of metrics and information to optimise prints. In doing so, the system is able to speed up the process by maximising machine usage and create scan data for powder bed fusion systems. It also has definite further applications outside of just the medical realm.
Another benefit of the Engine system, in terms of metal additive manufacturing, is the file sizes it allows. Betatype’s system enables the use of file formats that are up to 96% lighter than traditional STL files. Betatype’s ARCH format or nTopology’s LTCX data are to thank for this, as they utilise special algorithms to generate complex geometries, thus reducing size significantly. With this system, Betatype produced a spinal cage model that was a mere 8 MB in LTCX file format. For comparison it would have been 235 MB as an STL, and without the advantages of simplifying the manufacturing process.
Of course, then there are also the physical design benefits.
Currently, the technology is finding its legs in creating those metal implants. Generating porous, well-sized and well-distributed structures requires tons of data and processing power. Not only are the file sizes efficient but the structure itself is intricate and well-layered. An orthopaedic manufacturer using Engine was able to decrease build times from 25.8 hours to 15.4 hours.
Betatype explains: “For such applications Betatype technologies optimize the laser scan paths to reduce the total amount of firing and movement time required for complex lattice structures. Moreover using galvo-driven path optimization it is possible to reduce delay times from 13 hours to 3 hours by optimizing the delays on an exposure to exposure level, ensuring only the prerequisite delays are applied. This also resulted in a significant reduction in the travel distances required by the laser(s) from 170 km to 100 km.”
It’s another step in managing the kinks of powder bed systems, an endeavour that’s seen gained traction in recent years. Usually, improvements in the process are more hardware-oriented but Betatype has shown another way forward. Similar systems could soon be helping improve many other industrial efforts.
Featured image courtesy of Betatype.