Nexxt Spine, an Indiana-based medical device manufacturer, aims to scale up its spinal implant production with the adoption of its fourth and fifth Concept Laser Mlab 100R 3D printers from GE Additive. The company, which began using 3D printing just two years ago, sees the technology as the way forward for implant production.
Founded in 2009, Nexxt Spine got its start producing spinal screws, rods and plates. At the time, it relied on more traditional subtractive manufacturing processes. In 2017, however, the company installed its first Concept Laser Mlab 100R, which revolutionized its business model and enabled it to grow into the company it is today.
“We used the first Mlab primarily for R&D purposes, but we soon realized that further investment in additive technology could add value not only to our overall growth strategy, but also at a critical application level with the ability to develop implants with very intricate micro-geometries that could maximize healing,” said Alaedeen Abu-Mulaweh, director of engineering at Nexxt Spine. “Over the past two years, we have made a seamless jump from R&D to serial production and in doing so have significantly accelerated the time from concept to commercialization.”
With 3D printing, Nexxt Spine has been able to keep the entire production cycle in house, eliminating the need for external contract manufacturers and consequently speeding up the development and commercialization process for its implants. The company, which currently offers a range of spinal implant products, designs and manufactures all of its implants at its facility in Noblesville, Indiana.
An unconventional approach
In the 3D printed implant market, we tend to see companies leveraging additive manufacturing to mimic the natural structure of bone to recreate its properties. Nexxt Spine, however, has taken a very different approach. Rather than directly mimicking bone’s trabecular geometry, the medical device company blends cellular porosity (inspired by organic bone) with core engineering fundamentals. This combination results in implants that are structurally sound and optimized for fusion, Nexxt Spine says.
“Titanium—porous or otherwise—is physically incapable of biological remodeling, so using additive to directly mimic the structural randomness of bone doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” explained Abu-Mulaweh. “Rather than simply looking like bone, Nexxt Matrixx was designed with functionality in mind to fulfil our vision of actively facilitating the body’s natural power of cellular healing.”
The Nexxt Matrixx System is one of Nexxt Spine’s flagship products, first introduced in 2017. The system consists of a collection of porous titanium spinal fusion implants that interweave highly differentiated surface textures with 3D printed cellular scaffolding.
Scaling up production
With the imminent installation of its fourth and fifth Concept Laser Mlab 3D printers, Nexxt Spine will be ramping up its in-house production to meet the growth in demand for its spinal fusion devices.
“We are seeing ongoing adoption of additive manufacturing in the orthopaedic industry and an exciting short from research and development to serial production,” said Stephan Zeidler, senior global and key accounts director for the medical sector at GE Additive. “Early innovators like Nexxt Spine are scaling up and there is a significant increase in production volumes.”
Abu-Mulaweh added: “Like I said, additive is absolutely booming. It is driving our business and innovation strategy forward and our design team is actively developing and testing new applications, parameters and surgical devices to target new markets. We are excited for what the future holds for us.”