Welcome to this month’s AM Focus: Medical. For the entire month of February, we highlighted the many possibilities that additive manufacturing provides to medical companies today. In this last article of the series, we’re looking at global manufacturer Lincotek, an Italian-headquartered company with a strong foothold in medical additive manufacturing. Upcoming articles in the AM Focus will span innovative startups to giant multinational corporations, all of which are using AM in exciting ways. All the best content is featured in 3dpbm’s Medical AM Focus 2020 eBook.
Global contract manufacturer Lincotek (formerly Unitedcoatings Group) is in a great position to exploit opportunities in medical AM. The company has medical facilities across Europe, the US and China, including an AM-focused medical research center in Italy, and recently launched its dedicated Lincotek Additive division in Spreitenbach, Switzerland. Having championed AM — especially EBM and powder bed technologies — since 2006, Lincotek has 3D printed over half a million devices.
Pierfrancesco Robotti, Scientific Marketing Manager at Lincotek, believes that AM has provided several concretes advantages to the multifaceted company. “It helps keep our service tuned to customer innovation,” he says. “It also enables the manufacture and delivery of parts with complex shapes and surfaces.”
Lincotek is carrying out AM activities on a significant scale. The company has 22 printing systems installed internally at its Italian medical research center, only rarely outsourcing its printing for niche metals, and 30 employees are directly involved with AM operations. For most of its medical devices, which include products like acetabular cups for hip joints and intervertebral fusion devices, Lincotek employs laser sintering or EBM technology to print titanium alloys.
“With tens of 3D printing machines at our disposal and a variety of equipment and processes in place, we are able to offer our customers the best solution available for the specific part they wish to produce,” the company says. “Indeed, with the different kinds of equipment we run, it is possible to achieve different surface finishes, details and production speeds to meet the target properties, features and price.”
Using AM for high-risk medical applications comes with its challenges, of course. According to Robotti, process validation and component certification represent significant obstacles to overcome, as do financial considerations such as measuring costs against benefits and managing capital expenditure.
Robotti believes that powder bed fusion technology, especially laser and EBM, has the biggest potential for adoption in the medical sector, with products like orthopedic, spine and dental devices able to benefit the most from AM production.
After several years using AM, Lincotek officially launched Lincotek Additive in November 2019. “The business is ready to share its unique global serial additive production expertise with lowest in class scrap rates and more than 100.000 devices produced per year,” said a Lincotek spokesperson at the time. Lincotek reports yearly revenues of 8 million euros from AM activity alone.