IMR Tackles the Design Challenge of a Spinal Implant Using nTopology and Renishaw

nTopology, Irish Manufacturing Research and Renishaw collaborate to design a better spinal implant allowing for greater osseointegration and patient success. Read below to learn about case study and watch the webinar discussing it in further detail.

headshot of Sam Lindsay
Sam Lindsay
September 6, 2019 • 4 min read

In Fall 2018, nTopology, Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) and Renishaw worked closely together to determine how to design a better spinal implant that would allow for optimal osseointegration (structural and functional connection between living bone and a load-carrying implant). For the best osseointegration results an implant should mimic the mechanical properties of bone, however, this is very difficult to achieve with traditional manufacturing processes. To meet this challenge head-on, IMR knew they needed to look into the latest manufacturing trends and so they turned to nTopology to help with their design iterations. 

IMR is a research facility based in Dublin that offers support for Irish manufacturing facilities to help bring them into the latest generation of digital manufacturing and it happens that medical device production in Ireland is thriving. Working with nTopology they were able to design the spinal implants for additive manufacturing from the outset. 

Before I go on, let’s quickly talk about what a spinal implant is and why a patient would need it. A spinal implant is a small device that is implanted in between vertebral discs to effectively increase intervertebral height. Spinal implants are used to facilitate fusion, correct deformities, stabilize and strengthen the spine in patients with medical conditions such as spondylolisthesis (spinal slippage), chronic degenerative disc disease, and other forms of spinal instability. 



To achieve the best results for patients and doctors alike, IMR needed to ensure a porosity focused design. This is because implants need this type of design to osseointegrate effectively as bones are naturally porous. The closer to natural bone design and structure, the better. Designing this type of part in traditional CAD once would be nearly impossible. With nTop Platform, IMR was able to quickly go through many design iterations in a fraction of the time it would take to do one design in traditional CAD. 

Through the many iterations, IMR settled on a final design and sent the slice data directly to Renishaw’s QuantAM software to print in their RenAM 500Q machine. Through the many iterations, IMR settled on a final design, then sent the slice data directly to Renishaw’s RenAM 500Q machine. That’s right, design to manufacture which means no STL needed!

Duann Scott, Director of Partnerships at nTopology says, “To allow a smooth AM workflow from design to manufacture, hardware and design software need to communicate effectively.  Easy translation from design software to an AM machine is especially important when producing spinal implants, because intermediary stages and information transfer provide opportunities for errors and inconsistencies to occur.”

While the end result of the design challenge provided IMR with an ideal spinal implant it should be noted that the implant created is a conceptual design and will take further research and design to bring to the market. IMR will be able to do this using nTop Platform. 

To hear from Renishaw, IMR, and nTopology on this case study please register here to join us for our webinar, “Streamlining Manufacturing for Medical Implants”, on September 10th at 11:00am ET.


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Written by
Partner Marketing Director
Sam is the Partner Marketing Director for nTopology. She brings eight years of experience in the simulation industry and spent nearly seven years at Dassault Systemes as a Partner Manager for the SIMULIA brand. While working full time for SIMULIA she worked on obtaining an MBA and soaking up as much knowledge as she could about the additive manufacturing space. With her education, experience and enthusiasm for AM she brings her writing and marketing passion to the nTopology team. She lives in Providence, RI with her husband and spends quite a bit of time in NYC at nTopology HQ.