I am part of the cross-functional team at Orchid Orthopedic Solutions (Orchid) that researched, reviewed and selected our path to providing a reliable, capable and cost-effective additive manufacturing solution for large joint implants to our customers (orthopedic OEMs). I’ve spent my career in the orthopedic industry. My first role was helping to build out the foot and ankle market from design and development all the way through to commercialization. Prior to joining Orchid in 2016, I also held roles at Stryker and Small Bone Innovations. I like the ideation and innovation side of the business and connecting patient, provider and industry needs. I’m now responsible for activating innovative initiatives and new technologies that accelerate our customers’ ability to advance patient care.
Spectra L is the most reliable and robust technology, allowing us to use it to scale economically for large joint implants.
Orchid is a leading partner for forming and coating of orthopedic implants with a rich and long history in the market. By adding Additive Manufacturing to what we offer, we’re taking the next step in our evolution. We selected Spectra L Electron Beam Melting (EBM) technology. Since EBM was first introduced in the market, the technology has gone through rapid improvement and now has finer features than ever before. Spectra L is the most reliable and robust technology, allowing us to use it to scale economically for large joint implants.
This cost-effective innovation delivers results for our customers’ bottom line without compromising quality, design or performance.
Adoption of Additive Manufacturing in the Orthopedic Industry
When new technology is introduced in orthopedics, we usually see it in a patient-specific space where the need is to develop a custom device to meet a patient’s needs, such as in oncology where standard products aren’t available and the complexity of the design is not limited by the mode of manufacturing.
Additive manufacturing in the orthopedic industry started in patient-specific and spine markets, and it has become the standard method of manufacturing. Custom and spine implants have different AM use-cases when compared to large joints – relatively small and complex shapes, are ideal for the DLMS (laser) AM technologies that have been available for years.
These use-cases opened the door to use it elsewhere, and cementless hips were the next obvious application. Cementless hips – implants that have a porous or rough surface for the bone to grow into rather than adhering them with cement – are expensive to manufacture but do a better job in preserving patients’ bone, leading to better potential outcomes for younger patients. AM simplifies the manufacturing process by printing the entire hip cup and bone in-growth surface in one step. It saves time and can reduce cost and complexity. But to fully realize those benefits, a manufacturer must leverage the right technology – not all AM machines and processes function the same way.
Challenges in Adopting Additive Technologies for Orthopedic Hip and Knee Implants
The DMLS laser additive technology that allows for design freedom and building the small components needed for spine implants has not traditionally met the need for large joint implants (acetabular cups, femoral and tibia components).
In large joints, OEMs require new technologies to:
- Address the needs of the growing high-demand patient population
- Provide a cost, margin, efficiency, or availability benefit when compared to traditional manufacturing methods
- Have a clearly defined 510(k) regulatory pathway, proving equivalency in implant performance, material, strength and cleanliness to traditional manufacturing methods
Orchid’s Approach to Unlocking Cost-Effective Manufacturing of Large Joint Implants
It took about nine months for Orchid to select Spectra L EBM technology. We didn’t just want to make more products; we wanted to make products more cost effectively without compromising quality or design. When considering DMLS vs. EBM, EBM is clearly the right technology for the hip and knee applications we are building out – it has an edge in terms of process repeatability, scale and cost reduction throughout the process because of the significant post-processing steps required to manufacture large joints.
When considering DMLS vs. EBM, EBM is clearly the right technology for the hip and knee applications we are building out – it has an edge in terms of process repeatability, scale and cost reduction throughout the process because of the significant post-processing steps required to manufacture large joints.
The beauty of adding EBM technology to our portfolio is that it allows us to apply everything we know about forming and coating orthopedic implants to this modality, and then offer it at scale.
It is Orchid’s mission to enable our customers growth. They partner with us for our supply chain solutions, so we need to offer various types of manufacturing modalities and help them manage their costs. With Orchid, customers can use conventional methods of manufacturing, but it’s difficult to maintain costs due to inflation. For the first time in med device an AM option is available that can produce large joints at scale. Spectral L is a new tool that we can use to offset inflation, and now our customers have options.
We partnered with GE Additive because we wanted to work with a company that understands additive manufacturing as well as we understand orthopedic device manufacturing. They have provided us with a service package and access to their experts, and our partnership has made us a formidable player in the orthopedic industry. Orchid’s partnership with GE Additive builds on our legacy of forming and coating by continuing to invest in new technology and innovation. Customers have the benefit of working with one company that knows the product from end-to-end and can help them reduce the total cost of inventory so they can reinvest in their business and R&D.
Through application of Orchid’s expertise in bone in-growth surfaces and orthopedic device manufacturing, our adoption of Spectra-L EBM technology and partnership with GE Additive will advance:
- Cost Containment: Cost-effective manufacturing of large joint implants (ex: acetabular cups, femoral components and tibia baseplates)
- Scalability: The ability to make more large joint implants faster than any other additive manufacturing platform
- Supply Chain Stability: A resilient and flexible supply chain that is ready for the future needs of the market
We aren’t sitting still – we’re leaning into the additive manufacturing space and using it to complement our growth strategy. EBM is a catalyst to go big, and we’re excited to share it with customers.