3D-printed metal hip replacements that can be tailored individually for each patient have been demonstrated by engineering firm TWI.
The firm worked with metal powder technology company Metalysis to create hip replacements using "metal additive layer manufacturing".
The 3D-printed technique uses tantalum powder, a metal which is bio-inert, to form a lattice structure with consistent strength and density. 3D printing uses a system of layering small amounts of a material onto previous layers to create a solid structure.
Metalysis says the process is "cost-competitive" with traditional methods of creating artificial hip joints and is environmentally friendly.
It says that, until recently, the cost of 3D printing using metal was prohibitive, but that their tantalum powder allows for a cheaper process.
The powder is formed into solid structures using "selective laser melting" to fuse the tiny metal particles together with heat.
Richard Pargeter, a technology fellow at TWI, commented: “We have already seen the great success Metalysis has had printing automotive parts.
“Our analysis suggests these metals are incredibly versatile and highly suited to the medical industry.
“Metal 3D-printed hip replacements could be a huge step forward, allowing patients to have a tailor-made joint by scanning their other hip and matching it with a metal 3D-printed replacement, rather than being restricted to the choice of standard sizes now available.”
Dion Vaughan, chief executive of Metalysis, said: “It is tremendous to be partnering with TWI, a company that has so much knowledge in the manufacturing and medical industries.
“TWI has great expertise, particularly in the use of lasers in additive manufacturing, which we hope will help to bring individual joint replacements into the mainstream of mass manufacture.”