Additive Manufacturing

MAR 2018

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING is the magazine devoted to industrial applications of 3D printing and digital layering technology. We cover the promise and the challenges of this technology for making functional tooling and end-use production parts.

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MARCH 2018 Additive Manufacturing FEATURE / Metal Additive Manufacturing 30 resulting in a final color that correlates with plate and bone screw sizing (right). Why take this extra step? In addition to helping surgeons easily match implants in the operating room, the anodizing step is done in part "because we can," Rappach says. An implant that has been coated can't be anodized, but the fact that these implants are made completely of titanium with the texture built in makes this possible. A Foba M-series laser marking machine adds each hip cup's size and serial number (right) before they move on to inspec- tion, including nondestructive elemental analysis. After final inspection, parts pass through an airlock door just large enough for a wheeled cart into a cleanroom environ- ment for sterilization and packaging, completing the nearly beginning-to-end manufacturing process. Still to Come Slice has designed this entire process to ensure quality and traceability. Soon, this level of control could extend even further. When I commented on the available space in the 3D printing room at Slice, Rappach told me it will someday be filled by additional Arcam systems, as well as equipment for analyzing and mixing metal powders. Slice's eventual goal is to be able to control even the powder that goes into its machines, by buying the elements and creating its own custom blends for specific oxygen content, fatigue or other properties. These materials made in-house will need to be certified, which will mean installing additional analyzers for chemical makeup and particle size distribution. Mobile automation is another addition that could be com- ing soon. Slice has plans to acquire an Otto Motors automated guided vehicle (AGV) to shuttle parts from machining into the inspection area; in fact, a rollup door for this purpose was under construction at the time of my visit. "The idea is to ensure complete traceability," Rappach says. Not only would an automated system allow for more unattend- ed operation, it would also avoid delays, like an employee being called away while carrying parts from one stage to the next. When the system is in place, parts will have RF tags so that the AGV recognizes the work it is picking up and the ERP system can be automatically updated. In just a few short years, Slice has established itself as the type of company that didn't exist when Rappach first went looking: an additive manufacturer with the ability to print, postprocess, clean and ship medical implants. Until recent- ly this capacity has been used exclusively to make NextStep implants, but as of October 2017, Slice's doors are also open to external customers. The Willemin 508 MT is equipped with a part carousel that can hold up to 288 hip cups in 12 trays, each equipped with custom 3D- printed plastic fixtures. After finish machining, the hip cups are anodized to a final color that correlates with plate and bone screw sizing. This extra step is possible because Slice's implants are made of solid titanium with the trabecular structure built in; a coated implant could not be anodized. A Foba M-series laser marking machine adds the size and serial num- ber to each hip cup's interior after anodizing.

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