Innovnano, an expert manufacturer of structural zirconia ceramics, has entered into an R&D project with Universidade NOVA de Lisboa (FCT-NOVA) to produce zirconia-based ceramic orthopedic implants by 3D printing. Funded by Portugal 2020 (PT2020), the project will combine Innovnano’s uniquely manufactured nanostructured zirconia powders with FCT NOVA’s 3D printing technology. The goal is to develop a 3D printing process that is low cost, simple to implement at a large scale, and able to produce synthetic bone material that is biocompatible, stable and with mechanical properties close to those of different types of actual bone tissue.
Additive manufacturing (AM) by 3D printing has generated great interest over the last few years due the fact that it uses only the materials needed, with less waste. Complex parts can be produced faster and cheaper than before, so it has massive potential in almost every industrial sector. The new project will involve several different areas of research. With extensive experience in the production of nanostructured zirconia powders using its unique Emulsion Detonation synthesis (EDS) process, Innovnano will focus on the synthesis of new zirconia-based composite materials. The company will work with the team at FCT NOVA, one of Portugal’s most prestigious universities, to optimize the particle shape to produce the best compromise between porosity and mechanical resistance, and also on in vitro and in vivo studies to determine biocompatibility.
The first step in the project involves studying the influence of properties such as viscosity and composition of zirconia-based ceramic pastes, to optimize the mechanical and physiological properties of the ‘printed’ bone substitutes.
“We are looking forward to working with the team at FCT NOVA and are hopeful that this will eventually lead to a significant development in orthopedic medicine”, said Mr André de Albuquerque, Innovnano’s CEO. “In addition to this research into biomedical applications, the project will also help us understand how the technology can be applied in other industrial sectors such as automotive, aerospace, and robotics.”
“We are working on a novel 3D printing process to produce customized ceramic pieces with detailed designs and mechanical properties suitable for orthopedic applications. This is being accomplished with Innovnano’s 2YSZ and 3YSZ powders due to their unique properties”, said Professor Isabel Ferreira, Department of Materials Science of FCT NOVA. “Soon we will start with in vivo tests which will ultimately lead to a new era of producing prostheses on-demand”.