Game-Changing Technologies: EOS – Enhancing Your Shop with Additive

Additive Manufacturing (AKA Industrial 3D Printing) has created production success for spinal fusion products manufacturer CoreLink Surgical

Additive Manufacturing—more commonly known as Industrial 3D Printing—is a technology that, although mature, can still be revolutionary for manufacturers adopting it to change the way they produce parts and components.

The question for most manufacturers deciding whether to pursue this is: Is it worth it?

The answer from surgical instrument and implant manufacturer, CoreLink: Absolutely, yes.

The Benefits of Additive Manufacturing

With the costs of additive manufacturing equipment steadily heading down and its efficiency increasing just as quickly, we’re heading to an inflection point where more shops will have a clear demand for a variety of applications. The numerous ways you advantage from this technology include:

  • Declining cost of/barriers to entry. Equipment and material processes are dropping in price, making the technology increasingly affordable.
  • Reduced waste. Because Additive Manufacturing simply adds material until a part is finished, other than deburring and smoothing, there’ s very little waste in this method of production.
  • Cost-effective prototyping. When you’re milling prototype parts, set up is expensive and each iteration drives that prototype’s price up quickly. The prototype fabrication costs with additive manufacturing are far less. The real savings begin as you print adjusted new parts, with the 3D model design the only significant change from part to part—the production equipment is exactly the same each time.
  • Complex shapes are simplified. Using molding or milling or other traditional production methods, parts with complex shapes or complicated designs can be especially challenging to produce. But with Additive Manufacturing, once the 3D model design is complete, the 3D printing process can produce almost any shape with little difficulty.
  • Manufacturing and assembly can be combined into one step. With its ability to produce multiple components in place, the additive manufacturing process can actually create and assemble a part’s components in one process, saving time and ultimately expenses.
  • Less expensive for small production runs. At certain production numbers—say, 10,000 units or more—it becomes more efficient, both in time and expense, to create a mold and produce a part using traditional methods. But when parts are needed only in small batches, additive manufacturing makes them more cheaply and more quickly.

CoreLink—an Additive Manufacturing Success Story

An excellent example of production success using additive manufacturing is Hartwig customer CoreLink. A surgical instrument and implant manufacturer, CoreLink delivers precision, high-quality medical materials that help spinal surgeons provide the best possible care for their patients.

CoreLink designs and develops spinal fusion products using a variety of manufacturing methods, including Swiss machining, traditional milling, and additive manufacturing. That they are vertically integrated as both designer and manufacturer, they are unique in their industry. They manufacture approximately 98% of their own designs as well as providing contract manufacturing services to fifty other medical equipment companies.

CoreLink decided to pursue additive manufacturing for a variety of reasons. The first nudge came when they realized 3D printing technology wasn’t merely a new trend, as they watched major players in their space begin exploring and adopting it.

Second was their realization that there were potential cost savings with additive manufacturing. Peek, the traditional material used in implants, is extremely expensive for a variety of reasons including lot control and FDA approval requirements, so the idea of replacing it in the implants they produced had significant potential for cost savings.

They started the transition simply enough by shifting their then-current product line to an additive manufacturing process that uses titanium to create the required implant. Corelink developed Mimetic Metal®, a patented technology to 3D print titanium alloy implants. In this process, titanium powder is laser welded in layers to create the part, which is then deburred by hand and further finished through a secondary proprietary process.

According to Adam Cowick, CoreLink’s VP of Operations, “The project was about implementing Additive Manufacturing, acquiring equipment, hiring the right people, and implementing the new processes.” 

Besides reducing material costs for their parts, one startling outcome for CoreLink was the return on investment (ROI) they saw from the initiative. “ROI was not a main driver for the initiative,” Adam explains. “Yet, despite the initial capital expense of such high-end equipment, personnel expenses to bring in the right knowledge and the right expertise—not to mention development expenses—we saw an ROI of just one year.”

Explore Additive Manufacturing with Hartwig

At Hartwig, we bring next-generation manufacturing environments to life. We combine high-quality equipment with vast applications expertise to produce exceptional results—and we support our customers every step of the way, throughout the life of the equipment.

We are constantly pushing the boundaries of conventional machining with our full line of additive manufacturing equipment. Using this state-of-the-art equipment, our customers can create highly intricate plastic and metal parts without creating a single chip.

Consultative, Hands-On Expertise

One of the ways Hartwig supports our customers who are considering additive manufacturing is through our expertise. We provide consultants at every stage—idea through design and construction to production and post-processing—to help them develop a highly automated production chain for highly flexible and efficient production with consistent, repeatable part quality. Even if they’re already in full production, we can help identify ways to maximize results.

Schedule a Review

If you’re considering incorporating additive manufacturing into your production capabilities contact us to schedule a review of your applications to see where you have the best fit for this increasingly essential production solution.

To hear more about how CoreLink Surgical implemented Additive Manufacturing into their traditional shop environment, watch the full Game Changing Technologies episode here.

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