The Swiss m4m Center in Bettlach has officially complied with the requirements of ISO norm 13485:2016 since mid-April. It has therefore received the go-ahead to manufacture medical implants via 3D printing technology, details of which can be found in a press release. In the case of hip osteoarthritis, for example, medical imaging is first used to create a high-resolution 3D image of the affected joint, which provides the basis for the design of a customized implant. The data is then sent to the 3D printer in the form of a digital blueprint, which manufactures the individual piece with a precise fit.
The Swiss m4m Center was opened in September 2020. Since then, experts have installed and tested three 3D printers. In addition, the center has purchased a refrigerator-sized device that can be used to sift and clean the raw materials for the printer. Another device similar to a furnace is able to heat printed objects, allowing them to be processed to completion. In total, investment in the center to date stands at around 2 million Swiss francs, as CEO Nicolas Bouduban explains in the press release.
The primary focus of the new center in Bettlach is to support SMEs. It aims to help them industrialize innovative joint and dental prostheses. According to Bouduban, 3D printing processes could offer huge advantages, especially when dealing with complex workpieces. However, the technology is not suitable for all products. “With today's hype around 3D printing, it's important to know where this technology makes sense”, he emphasizes.
The Swiss m4m Center has received financial support from the Federal Council (the Swiss federal government), the ETH Board, the cantons of Bern and Solothurn in addition to numerous partners from the world of business. It is a member of the AM-TTC Alliance (Advanced Manufacturing Technology Transfer Centers). This organization was established at the initiative of the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa). It has a mandate from the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) to evaluate applications and keep an eye on the development of the AM-TTC centers. In addition to the Swiss m4m Center, there is currently another AM-TTC center based at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). The AM-TTC Alliance is also committed to establishing a further two to three such centers.