Printing with metal is a complex procedure, requiring specialized machinery and source materials. Setting up an operation to be able to print titanium, however, requires an order of magnitude more expertise. Titanium is strong. Its strength to weight ratio is the highest of all metals and has properties that make it suitable for a wide range of applications, including aerospace, automotive, sports, and medical equipment. Titanium also has several advantages that make it suitable for manufacturing implants:
- Chemical resistance: titanium is resistant to reacting with other chemicals and compounds.
- Biocompatible: nontoxic and biocompatible, titanium is well suited as the material of choice for a variety of medical related implants. Biocompatibility only exists within a small handful of materials, and titanium is one material that is fully approved to be incorporated into the body and is considered the most biocompatible metal.
- Resilient: Titanium is resilient to rust and oxidative degradation. It is a reactive metal, but titanium oxide provides a strong, durable, almost impenetrable barrier that protects the pure titanium metal from further corrosion.
- High strength to weight ratio: due to its strength, titanium is used on the landing gears of planes, naval ships, and other critical applications.
As impressive as commercially pure titanium is, in medical applications a more advanced titanium alloy is needed with a chemical composition of 6% aluminum, 4% vanadium and the rest in titanium. This offers increased strength than regular titanium. Medical-grade titanium alloy goes a step further with ELI or “extra low interstitials” reflecting a very low amount of other contaminants such as oxygen which improve ductility and fracture toughness.
With so many advantages, titanium is still only used in critical applications due to its manufacturing challenges—it’s a difficult metal to work with and requires specialized equipment, facilities, certifications, specialized city-zoning permits, and specific materials and waste-management processes. Aside from the above factors, titanium’s strength makes it difficult to manipulate in traditional manufacturing environments. With its unique requirements, titanium manufacturing is considered extremely expensive. Recent advancements in additive technologies are enabling the use of titanium and have allowed designers to create complex designs that were previously impossible to manufacture.
PrinterPrezz is the only 3D medifacturing company in the San Francisco Bay Area that’s fully compliant and certified to work with and 3D print using titanium powder. Despite its unforgiving nature in manufacturing, PrinterPrezz’s unique technologies allow 3D printed titanium to be a breakthrough for orthopedic implants, providing unrivaled strength, biocompatibility, and patient-matched solutions.
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