The process can produce, in the operating room, bioresorbable metal implants such as screws made of magnesium alloys that are used for bone fractures. It also can produce components for fuel cells or components for battery systems.
The Selective LED-based Melting (SLEDM) process uses LEDs instead of laser sources for additive manufacturing of metal parts. SLEDM melts metal powder using high-power LED light sources. It is similar to selective laser melting (SLM) and electron beam melting (EBM) in which metal powder is melted by means of a laser or electron beam and built up into a component layer by layer; however, SLEDM eliminates the time-consuming production of large-volume metal components and manual post-processing. The LEDs are equipped with a complex lens system by which the diameter of the LED focus can be easily changed during the melting process, enabling melting of larger volumes per unit of time without having to dispense with filigree internal structures and reducing the production time by a factor of 20 on average. The time-consuming, usually manual reworking that is necessary with current methods - such as smoothing rough surfaces and removing supporting structures - is no longer necessary and saves valuable time.
Graz University of Technology, Graz, Austria
The implants dissolve in the body after the fracture site has grown together, eliminating a second operation that is often very stressful for patients. Also, with SLEDM, the production of implants would be possible directly in the operating theater because LED light is naturally less dangerous for the operation than powerful laser sources.
The inventors have applied for a patent and a marketable prototype is being created.