Global Advanced Metals and Croom Medical are working on the development of a tantalum-based additive manufacturing platform.

Tantalum (Ta) is one of these refractory metals that is highly valued due to its applications in a wide range of industrial sectors where outstanding mechanical properties at elevated temperatures are required. In the AM industry, a few number of companies such as TanioBis, Carpenter Additive or 6K Additive are currently providing this material in their portfolio. Global Advanced Metals (GAM) and Croom Medical, respectively headquartered in the USA and Ireland, will join this short list of companies. Together, they are working on a turnkey tantalum-based additive manufacturing (AM) platform,

Croom Precision are a FDA registered company that offers OEM contract manufacturing engineering services medical device companies.

GAM has exclusive rights to the world’s largest industrial resources of tantalum ore located in Western Australia, where it extracts tantalum as a co-product of lithium mining. GAM produces conflict-free tantalum powders and metallurgical products at its Pennsylvania, USA, and Aizu, Japan, plants for a range of industries, including electronics, aerospace, defense and medical.

A laser powder bed fusion GE M2 Series 5 printer has been installed within Croom’s facility, with the printer being fully dedicated to the use of GAM’s tantalum AM powder.

Andrew O’Donovan, CEO of Global Advanced Metals, added, “In recent years, GAM has worked to enhance the production of ultra-pure spherical tantalum powder for 3D printing. GAM views the intrinsic purity and properties of tantalum as a wonderful fit for next generation implants and Croom is the company with the experience, capability and long-established customer relationships to bring this to market.”

GAM and Croom are initially targeting the contract manufacturing of medical implants and components that would benefit from the enhanced performance offered by tantalum. Multiple papers cite advantages of tantalum-based implants compared to existing implant materials, including improved biocompatibility (reduced clotting), enhanced bone in-growth, tolerable to higher stress, and produces high surface friction promoting implant stability. These benefits should lower the rate of surgery revisions, thus avoiding patient discomfort and unnecessary added surgery costs. Although use of tantalum in AM applications is relatively new, tantalum has been extensively and successfully used for many years in in-vivo surgical devices such as surgical staples, dental implants, and hip and knee implants. GAM and Croom believe that using AM technology to develop these devices will enable production of complex, porous, strong and lightweight structures.

As part of this collaboration, GAM will provide spherical tantalum powder, produced in its Boyertown, Pennsylvania, plant and derived from ethically and conflict-free-sourced tantalum raw material. The team at Croom will manufacture devices and components for customers using a recently acquired GE M2 printer 100% dedicated to the project and material. In a circular manufacturing cycle, tantalum raw material that cannot be reused in this AM process will be recycled back to GAM’s Pennsylvania facility. GAM’s raw material and tantalum powder expertise, Croom’s decades-long experience manufacturing, finishing and testing devices to medical device standards, and Croom’s proximity and relationship with many of the top device OEMs situated in Ireland, positions this collaboration for long-term success.

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