The International Titanium Association’s (ITA) Medical Technologies Committee (MTC) has revised its strategic plan for assessing global markets, focusing on 3D/additive manufacturing (AM) and underlining the importance of distributors as key supply chain players.

Medical applications for titanium, most notably in joint replacements, bone reinforcements, and dental applications, have been gaining momentum for several years, and the MTC believes its updated strategic plan is a way to re-evaluate medical as an emerging market by exploring AM to develop customized implants.

MTC Co-Chairman Viv Helwig, founder of Vested Metals Inc., explains that the MTC will explore AM technology, and study means using new alloys and smaller material lots to target implants with greater osseointegration and bio-compatibility.

Distributors can play a role by providing specific alloy grades and servicing subcontract manufacturers, Helwig explains. Distributors must deliver consistent material, compensating for the clinical nature of the titanium industry, which can lead to long lead times and supply constraints. Because titanium competes with stainless/cobalt alloys, Helwig said distibutors can balance inventories to the correct type and service customers.

MTC Co-Chairman Stephen R. Smith, president of Edge Int’l, says he and Helwig hope to educate the market on the opportunities for AM. Smith sees the potential for titanium in spinal implants and facial/cranial implants, especially jaw reconstruction. He adds that titanium will remain a strong player in the medical market for the foreseeable future due to its light weight, resistance to body fluids, biocompatibility, and it being a non-ferromagnetic metal (for MRI safety).

International Titanium Association (ITA)cTitanium Asia 2018