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How Smith & Nephew Is Using 3-D Printing for a Hip Implant

Smith & Nephew is touting its new Redapt Revision acetabular fully porous cup--entirely porous thanks to the 3-D printing process used to make it.

S&N Redapt Revision
Redapt Revision acetabular fully porous cup (Image courtesy of Smith & Nephew)

Chris Newmarker

British medical device giant Smith & Nephew turned to 3-D printing to allow ingrowth for one of its newest titanium hip implant cups.

S&N showcased the Redapt Revision acetabular fully porous cup with Conceloc technology this week at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) annual meeting in Orlando, FL.

The Redapt, which won FDA clearance in November 2015, is meant to be used in cases where bone makes implant fixation and stability more tricky. Ingrowth is achieved through the Redapt's entirely porous nature that mimics the structure of cancellous bone. A 3-D printing manufacturing process was the key to achieving such porous qualities, according to Smith & Nephew.

"We're excited about the creative possibilities this new manufacturing process holds for surgeons and their patients," Mike Donoghue, vice president of global reconstruction at Smith & Nephew, said in a news release.

"Bringing to market a 3D-printed titanium acetabular cup for difficult revision procedures is just one example of the potential of this remarkable technology," Donoghue said.

The 3-D manufacturing process behind Redapt worked by precisely aiming a laser onto a thin layer of titanium (Ti-6Al-4V) powder. The laser produces heat that fuses the powder together. The Redapt is then built upward layer by layer to create a fully formed titanium implant is produced, according to S&N.

Besides the fully porous nature, the additive manufacturing method also allows for complex geometries that Smith & Nephew says would otherwise be difficult, expensive, or impossible to achieve with traditional manufacturing methods. For example, solid reinforcements can be built directly into the porous structure to provide extra strength in precise locations.

Along with the entirely porous nature accomplished through 3-D printing, the Redapt can also be enhanced through new variable-angle locking screws that boost stability and minimize micromotion after surgery. The screws work with the implant's unique geometry, providing both compression and a rigid construct to the acetabular shell.

Smith & Nephew is not the only orthopedic device maker embracing the potential of 3-D printing. News came out in January that Stryker plans to build a brand new, state-of-the-art 3-D printing manufacturing facility this year, though company has not yet disclosed where the 3-D printing plant will be built, or how much it will cost. The 3-D printing plant will be used for new, innovative products including revision cones with geometry that can only be made with 3-D printing, and a soon-to-be-launched 3-D printed titanium interbody device for spine.

"For the foreseeable future, at least the next three, four years or so, our focus is really on innovative new products and not replacing our existing products with 3-D printed products. The pipeline of innovative new geometries that can't be made without 3-D printing is the area of focus," Stryker chief financial officer Bill Jellison told analysts in January 26 conference call transcribed by Seeking Alpha.

Learn more about cutting-edge medical devices at BIOMEDevice Boston, April 13-14, 2016.

Chris Newmarker is senior editor of Qmed and MPMN. Follow him on Twitter at @newmarker.

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