Hartwig, CoreLink Surgical, and EOS partner to bring game-changing technology for spinal implants to market

The Customer

CoreLink is a surgical device manufacturer that is dedicated to empowering surgeons and their teams who serve a range of patients with severe and debilitating spinal injuries and illnesses. As a vertically integrated company, CoreLink designs and manufactures 99% of their implants in-house, which enables them a more hands-on approach in collaborating with the medical field.

By working directly with surgeons and physicians they are able to address critical innovations based on the results of research and direct conversations with the medical community. CoreLink designers were well aware of the advantages of additive manufacturing (which they’ve been deploying for quite a while), as well as the limitations of the current offerings of implant materials. 

When they needed expertise and guidance on how additive could create implants in-house that were more sterile, complex, and better yet, bone-like, they turned to the combined expertise of Hartwig and EOS for a solution. 

The resulting innovation was a spinal implant that would not just revolutionize their own production process, but greatly improve the outcomes of the patients who receive them.

The Challenge: In a Word, PEEK

Spinal implants had been changed by another industry leader within the last decade. The traditional implant material, PEEK, was quickly being replaced by 3D printed interbody products made of polymer plastic. PEEK is very costly, because it’s controlled largely by the FDA which drives up the raw material costs.

CoreLink Surgical’s design team is always under significant pressure to keep pace with the changing tides in the industry. However, beyond that, the team was investigating the latest benefits that 3D printing could offer in designing materials and implants that match the strength and nature of actual bone. 

To achieve this, they sought the support of third-party partners who would not only consult, but also introduce those technologies to CoreLink, enabling them to produce those materials in house, keeping in line with their business model. 

The Solution: Mimetic 3D Materials That Actually Imitate the Body’s Natural Materials

Hartwig and EOS have the consultative capacity to introduce our clients and partners to innovative solutions. In addition to providing training for the equipment we provide, our team can advise on materials, processes, and equipment selection to suit specific applications within a range of industries, including medical (where additive manufacturing is quickly becoming more widely adopted).

With CoreLink, this spoke to the mission of not only producing more efficient and technologically advanced production techniques. It also meant vastly improving the success rates of implant procedures, increasing the quality of life and pain management for the patients who receive their life-changing implants. 

Hartwig introduced CoreLink to the additive team at EOS, and the result is a game-changing 3D-printed patented technology, Mimetic Metal®, a simulated implant material that: 

  • Is stronger than titanium
  • Provides better postoperative success than PEEK
  • Has an open-pore structure that mimics the nature of bone
  • Introduces no risk of delamination due to is single-piece structure
  • Utilizes a directional lattice structure that modulates stiffness and load redirection to once again emulate the characteristics of bone

“Our experience with EOS has been fantastic. We’ve had experience with a number of machines over the years, from traditional machining and more. The capability of EOS technologies is industry-leading. We use two different brands on our shop floor, and I’ll say that EOS is superior to the other shop tools we have.”

—Adam Cowick, Vice President of Operations at CoreLink

The Results: Lifesaving, Time Saving, and Game-Changing Implants

The resulting implant features an open-pore design to mimic a more bone-like strength and further reduce multi-directional strain. The open-pore design allows for enhanced and improved blood flow for improved mobility, faster healing, and better quality of life for the patient. 

It all starts with R&D and lifelike digital prototypes. EOS’s CAD functionality allows improved simulations to determine just how the implant will react in various real-life scenarios, cutting down on the cost of R&D significantly. Sophisticated and highly precise color coding recreates that stress process before a prototype is created, further helping to reproduce the self-adapting properties of natural bone. 

The titanium build plates are created right in-house by a 3-D technician, keeping all of their development not just local, but right on the factory floor. This process further reduces waste, part cost, secondary waste, and production time, namely since those parts require very little modification (wire EDMs, blades) or secondary hand finishing. 

The reduction in the need for secondary processing keeps the parts more sterile during production, a vital advantage for surgical implants. 

While ROI wasn’t their main driver, CoreLink was able to recoup the cost of equipment expenditures within a year. More than that, additive manufacturing developed an entirely new level of expertise for their products, further fulfilling their mission to heal and help patients. 

Mimetic Metal would simply not be possible with traditional manufacturing methods. 

Additive manufacturing solutions respond to the dynamics and complexities of their builds, allowing for the more custom nature of medical devices. Spinal implant kits could include 100 different SKUs, and most builds have at least six different lots per build. They’re able to keep their staffing levels minimal to enjoy this level of product diversity with limited run time. In a traditional machining scenario, this level of production would require 4 7-day 24-hour shifts (instead of 120 hour combined work weeks with 3D printing). 

EOS machines are now used in daily operations at CoreLink Surgical. The additional advantages that they’ve enjoyed with EOS and Hartwig include consultative technological advice from the Additive Minds global team, as well as reliable, proactive support on all the machines they have in the shop.

EOS and Hartwig Are Leading the Way in Additive Technology

“We prepare companies to innovate beyond existing boundaries with additive manufacturing. More than 400 successful customer projects show that Additive Minds can take your company to the next level,” says Thomas Weitlaner, Director of Additive Minds & Business Development EOS GmbH.

Together, Hartwig and EOS can help manufacturing leaders identify opportunities for implementing additive technology to fuel growth. The EOS Additive Minds team offers additional consultative expertise to help manufacturers determine and test the effectiveness of additive for specific applications. 

For more information about how Hartwig can help introduce game-changing additive solutions to your floor and product suite, get in touch with our team of experts.

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