Streamlining AM for Spinal Implants

Context & Aim

Additive manufacturing has seen some of its greatest success stories in the medical industry, more specifically in the area of orthopaedic implants. Given the industry, it can be very difficult for companies such as Renishaw, Topology and ourselves to demonstrate what the technology can do. As such a group was formed to create the following novel implant utilizing the strengths of the technology in a way that can be disseminated to anyone interested in it.


Development of medical devices can be extremely difficult; this can be exasperated by the low levels of design freedom available from the use of traditional technologies. One of the major challenges is realizing designs that are more favourable to the patient whilst creating representative models for testing prior to going into production. From a design perspective it can be difficult to model the ideal design as traditional 3D modelling techniques do not allow for this.


To realise this the freedom of design afforded by Additive Manufacturing, we engaged with nTopology and Renishaw to use their respective state of the art of solutions to develop a framework for the development of novel orthopaedic implants. In this case we used the internal expertise to pull together the design intent and develop that into a physical case study that demonstrates the developments the progress made in this industry.


The freedom of nTopology’s software coupled with the open nature of the Renishaw systems meant that the researchers in IMR were able to create a tangible solution in a number of weeks.


The result of the work undertaken is that of a demonstratable pathway for using advanced modelling and manufacturing techniques to develop and produce implantable devices. A small C5 spinal cage was developed that incorporated may of the features that AM enables whilst showing the ability of AM to produce devices such as these on an industrial scale. This is now a disseminatable piece of work that can now be applied to any company working in the medical device industry.


The impact of this project is that it has laid the groundwork for companies within our network who are interested in this technology to come and learn about the processes they must undertake to develop and design such devices. A direct result of this is a number of companies getting engaged in the development of such devices with ourselves.

Given the nature of the project, the main benefit to the clients, is that of the dissemination and realisation of a framework for the development of small medical devices. This is key for Renishaw and nTopology as they are now able to point to a direct demonstrator of how their clients will use their products to further their offering.

“IMR is instrumental in bringing advanced manufacturing technology to the Irish industry. The company’s design expertise and research rigor enabled the production of representative spinal implants that demonstrate the potential of AM to transform healthcare” (Ed Littlewood, Renishaw).

Streaming additive manufacturing for spinal implants


Sean McConnell
Senior Additive Engineer


Design for Manufacturing