Medical devices on a build platform: spinal ALIFs, tibial trays, and acetabular cups. Image and caption courtesy nTopology.
When it comes to designing products for use in the human body, medical device engineers need “advanced capabilities for handling extremely complex geometry, lattice creation, topology optimization, and surface-quality control,” Chris Cho, senior application engineer, nTopology, told MD+DI. They also “need rapid, highly accurate, and dependable design engineering tools in order to innovate quickly and create products that can be tracked, validated, and approved for use in human patients.”
Additive manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing, is giving medical device designers the ability to develop features that were previously difficult to execute with standard manufacturing. To help them design such features, the company developed nTop Platform engineering software specifically to meet the challenges of advanced manufacturing and particularly AM. “Medical device engineers are always looking for new and better design methodologies to create osseointegrative surfaces, and new capabilities in advanced manufacturing are becoming able to support those needs. Lattice structure creation is another priority for lightweighting implant designs that additive manufacturing in particular meets very well,” Cho explained. “Design exploration in both these areas is greatly facilitated in nTop Platform’s robust modeling environment where a full design space can be explored and then optimized with the kind of complete traceability that is a priority in the medical industry. nTop Platform enables medical device engineers to create complex lattice structures, control surface roughness, create patient-specific devices, and ensure the level of accuracy . . . demanded by the industry.”
Cho describes nTop as “a unified platform for geometry creation and editing, design analysis and control of manufacturing output. Because of its foundation in advanced mathematics, it is not prone to errors or model breakage during data transfer or iteration.” He added that “the software answers the pressing needs of today’s product designers for rapid, innovative design iteration and optimization, knowledge capture and collaboration, and clean transfer of design data to the advanced machines used to manufacture such products.”
The open-software nTop Platform interfaces with other software tools. “It’s implicit-based processing and field-driven design capabilities allow for direct integration with computer-aided design (CAD), finite-element analysis (FEA), computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and other software tools—and enables dramatically fast processing speeds,” Cho said.
It can take designs or data from other software and utilize them for design improvements or iterations. “Users can easily bring their existing designs or data into nTop Platform to create a master model upon which all manner of multiphysics analyses can be carried out, extremely quickly, to optimize designs and evaluate such characteristics as performance, robustness, and lifespan,” Cho said.
Above: Additively manufactured femoral stem implants with complex surface structures have a performance advantage of improved osseointegration. Image courtesy of TU Delft.
Above: nTopology Platform design options for 3D-printed femoral stem implant seen in the image directly above. The software allows for the rapid iteration of designs, quickly sweeping between ordered or randomized structures that promote osseointegration. Image and caption courtesy nTopology.
nTop Platform also supports efforts to make manufacturing more efficient and data driven through Industry 4.0 initiatives. “Our software’s workflow capabilities enable automation of processes and elimination of low value manual work,” Cho said. “These qualities lend themselves to the goals of Industry 4.0, which is seamless data transfer that enables automation up and downstream between conception and production.”
During a recent webinar on using nTop, medical device engineers expressed the need “for software solutions that make their design processes as efficient and reliable as possible and give them the ability to handle the wildly complex geometries they need to create products for use in the human body,” Cho said. “Engineers are constantly under pressure to innovate and collaborate at the same time—while meeting the extremely strict quality metrics of their industry. The webinar demonstrated the powerful benefits accessible to them through the workflows in nTop Platform.”