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Fraunhofer Institute develops new smallest bone substitute

Fraunhofer Institute For Biomedical Engineering (IBMT, St Ingbert) : 04 June, 2007  (New Product)
Fraunhofer Institute researchers are now able to produce tiny implants from biocompatible materials such as titanium so that the stirrup, a small bone in the human ear, can be accurately replicated by means of injection moulding.
The stirrup, a small bone in the human ear, can be accurately replicated using established production processes.

By means of injection moulding, researchers can now produce such tiny implants from biocompatible materials such as titanium.

'We make exact copies of this delicate ossicle'.

'Injection moulding with very fine metal powder enables us to replicate these tiny structures', explains Philipp Imgrund of the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials Research IFAM in Bremen.

Until now, the production of tiny metal parts using techniques such as etching or milling has been a very complex and time-consuming process, and not suitable for many types of metal.

With micro metal powder injection moulding (micro-MIM), however, the scientists are able to combine and shape different types of material.

It has been possible for a long time to produce tiny parts from stainless steel.

Now the researchers are in a position to make such small, delicate components out of biocompatible materials such as titanium and titanium alloys.

In a pilot series, the researchers manufactured 300 miniature parts with a weight of 5.4mg each and a wall thickness of only 0.3mm.

'We are now ready to start series production with the micro-MIM process', Imgrund stresses.

'Using the stirrup as an example, we are demonstrating the limits and possibilities of the process and of the new materials'.

The injection mould for the demonstrator was designed and built by Kramer Engineering in Rendsburg.

Before injection-moulding miniature parts, the researchers mix the fine metal powder with an organic binding agent.

The mixture can then be processed on an injection moulding machine in the same way as a plastic.

Following this, the binding agent is expelled from the component, which is then sintered to a high density.

'We vary the powder and binding agent and are developing suitable injection-moulding and sintering processes'.

'Our objective is to achieve reproducibly high quality for very complex micro-components and to equip these components with additional functions as required', explains Imgrund.

Components could be reinforced with higher strength material in areas subject to particularly high stress, for example, or a part could be given special magnetic properties.
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