Medical AMOrthopedic Implants

How medical companies use AM for production today, part 4: Johnson & Johnson

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For our AM Focus Medical this month we continue to zoom in on the many possibilities that additive manufacturing is offering today to medical companies. We are now taking a closer look at the impact on this segment from Johnson & Johnson additive manufacturing activities. In the previous episodes, we looked at one of the largest companies to operate in this segment, like Stryker and Lima as well as interesting SMEs and startups, like Osseus and FabRx. Upcoming episodes will continue to include many different types of players in this segment, ranging from highly innovative startups and SMEs to giant multinational corporations. At the end of the month all the best content will be featured in 3dpbm’s Medical AM Focus 2020 eBook.

Johnson & Johnson’s activities in 3D printing technology span well beyond the medical space (as do its many products and business units); however, the company has been active in developing this area of its 3D printing expertise over the last several years.

One approach has been through its 3D Printing Center of Excellence to develop new customized surgical tools, which were made available to surgeons in hospitals in the US. Headed by Sam Onukuri, a mechanical engineer with a specialty in metallurgy, the J&J Center is working to change the landscape of healthcare through 3D printing innovations.

For orthopedic applications, J&J subsidiary DePuy Synthes is the primary distributor and designer of all implant technologies supported by additive manufacturing at the company. In the area of orthopedics, DePuy’s range of offerings is quite diversified. Its investment in the interbody implant segment in the spine includes the recent introductions of the CONCORDE LIFT Expandable Interbody Device, and in the U.S., the PROTI 360° Family of Titanium-Integrated Interbody Implants, designed to treat patients with degenerative disc disease.

Johnson & Johnson additive manufacturing
DePuy Synthes’ CONDUIT Interbody Platform with EIT Cellular Titanium Technology, a 3D printed interbody implant for treating degenerative spine disease.

In fact, J&J’s activities in additive orthopedics are spread across multiple acquired businesses and partnerships. Since acquiring German spinal implant company Emerging Implant Technologies (EIT) in 2018, the EIT business has become J&J’s most direct play in the additive orthopedics market. As an industry leader across the full range of orthopedic and spine specialties, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies are leveraging its global commercial infrastructure to bring EIT’s technologies to patients around the world. EIT’s portfolio of AM products leverage EIT’s proprietary advanced cellular titanium, which consists of an open and interconnected porous structure designed to allow bone to grow into the implant.

This acquisition allowed DePuy Synthes, as the orthopedics business of Johnson & Johnson, to enhance its comprehensive interbody implant portfolio that includes expandable interbody devices, titanium integrated PEEK technology and now 3D printed cellular titanium, for both minimally invasive and open spinal surgery. In 2019 Finally, DePuy Synthes released the CONDUIT Interbody Platform with EIT Cellular Titanium Technology, a 3D printed interbody implant for treating degenerative spine disease. The new platform consists of 3D printed titanium interbody implants that are made to mimic the structure of natural bone to promote spinal fusion in the patient.

In the spinal fusion procedure, a collapsed disc is removed from the patient’s spine and replaced with an interbody spacer and a bone graft. The combination of these two elements helps to restore the natural length of the spine and improve alignment between the two vertebrae. The idea, as DePuy Synthes explains, is to “replace the former mob.

In the area of bioprinting, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, along with DePuy Synthes, launched a formal collaboration with Tissue Regeneration Systems (TRS) in 2014 to accelerate its promising technology for 3D printing bioresorbable implants. This collaboration has evolved into an acquisition that will advance 3D printing technology for bone trauma and deformities.

Johnson & Johnson additive manufacturing
TRS technology was used to 3D print a highly successful tracheal splint

Using TRS’ 3D printing technology hopes to create individualized bone implants based on the patient’s unique anatomy. TRS has also developed a specialized mineral coating that helps promote bone healing. Rather than rely on polymers, these printers use materials ranging from metal to human cells to create customized, fully-functional objects. The bone-healing technologies joined a pipeline of other 3D printed products at J&J, including bioprinted knee tissue that could potentially make knee surgery and recovery easier.

In 2018 J&J also partnered with Materialise in the marketing and distribution of multiple patient-specific implants and personalized surgical treatments, including for cranial and shoulder implants marketed under the TruMatch brand, which include titanium printed components created by Materialise and its surgical planning software, custom cutting templates and models, and printed customized implants. The cranial solution has been supported by DePuy for several years, and in 2018 the partnership expanded with the launch of patient-specific shoulder implants for glenoid deformities. These solutions are only commercially available in Europe, however, there may be some activity in these solutions in the U.S. happening through FDA special exemptions.

With a stake in metal patient-specific and off-the-shelf additively manufactured implants, DePuy also has also been eyeing advanced next-generation additive orthopedic applications in non-metals with the acquisition of Tissue Regeneration Systems in 2017, a start-up which has been working closely with Johnson & Johnson to develop bioresorbable implants to treat bone defects and fractures, moving its future additive manufacturing capabilities further into the trauma segment and beyond just joint replacement and spine.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites and, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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