Evonik Industries AG has stepped up its additive manufacturing (AM) efforts with a recent investment in a Chinese 3D printing start-up specialized in implants for neuro and spinal surgeries.
The company said Sept. 5 that it had invested a “high single-digit million-euro” figure in Shanghai-based Meditool to mark its first direct investment in China.
Meditool’s homegrown technologies include a software system which can read and process images directly from commonly used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography scan (CT) devices.
The software then generates a readily printable 3D model which is sent to the printer.
The implants are 3D printed using Evonik’s high-performance Polyetheretherketone (PEEK) polymers, said the Evonik statement.
“Meditool’s technology pays directly into our strategy of expanding in high-tech applications for our additive manufacturing materials,” said Thomas Grosse-Puppendahl, head of the Evonik’s innovation growth field additive manufacturing.
Medical applications, he added, “are of particular interest and our high-performance polymers have already been proven as a reliable implant material in other applications such as dental.”
For Evonik, the 3D printed PEEK implants are “revolutionary” compared with those made from metal, the current conventional solution for the orthopedics implant market.
Additive manufacturing allows the customization of each implant for individual patients, reducing the likelihood of further operations to adjust the size.
In addition, PEEK is less thermally conductive than metal, meaning that the implants would not heat up or cool down when the patient is exposed to different temperatures.
The material is also biocompatible and not harmful to living tissue, while allowing for CT and MRI examinations after surgery.
“Meditool is one of the pioneers in developing 3D printed PEEK medical implants,” said Ken Jin, co-founder and chief technology officer of Meditool. “Evonik has been our trusted partner in materials supply. The venture investment will be an extra boost to our endeavor to bring innovative solutions to patients and surgeons in China and the rest of the world.”