Bones From a 3D-Printer
3D printers can do a lot, but Lithoz can do more. The Viennese startup has worked its way up to be the world market leader.
A complex procedure is behind the groundbreaking technological achievement for biomedicine, which is based on years of research. A so-called photopolymerisation procedure is used in which the raw material is a plastic acting as a binder that can be hardened with light. This is combined with your ceramic powder and then filled in the machine in the form of a thin layer and exposed so that a type of plastic component results in the first step. In the second step, the material goes in the oven where the plastic binder is burnt at up to 1,600 degrees. What remains is an end product made from ceramics. The advantage of the ceramics from the 3D printer is that everything that can be drawn, including delicate shapes, can also be reproduced. Furthermore, an expensive mould with which the ceramics have to be poured off is no longer necessary.
With this procedure, the production of everything from individual pieces to small series of up to 1,000 pieces is cheaper than using the conventional method. The interesting part is custom products such as those for biomedicine. Customisable implants, bone parts and highly complex blood pumps are the flagships of Lithoz. “In the event of serious breaks, there is often the problem that bones do not grow back again. Now there is the possibility – to put it simply – to print out the missing piece made-to-measure,” says Johannes Benedikt explaining the biocompatible as well as the regenerative potential of ceramic scaffolds. Lithoz is happily identified as the spin-off company of TU Vienna. This is because everything started with the local thesis of Johannes Homa (CEO). Johannes Benedikt, now the CTO of Lithoz, designed the required machines at a later stage. After three and a half years of cooperation with TU Research and Development, they finally printed their first ceramic component and founded their own company in August 2011.
A new material, silicone nitride, was developed with the new system and an ISO certificate was pocketed. Worldwide expansion is also in the pipeline. “The USA and Asia are our envisaged markets. In China we are working with Tsingau University, which is also specialised in ceramics,” says Johannes Homa.
As of the beginning of 2017, the first major milestone has also been reached in America. Thanks to the opening of a new location in Albany, customer inquiries from the entire North American market can now be processed timely and with high service quality. After all, the US market constitutes a third of the world market for high-performance ceramics and includes many industries and applications. Johannes Benedikt, CTO of Lithoz, adds: “Printing ceramics in 3D offers many possibilities in function-oriented design. We have found that our American customers are very open and innovative.”
Lithoz is constantly evolving and with October 2018 employs around 60 people.
Services provided by the Vienna Business Agency:
- Funded through the Globalisation Programme
- Funded through the Innovation programme
as of October 2018