Wallwork brings aircraft technology to medical implants
Wallwork Cambridge has been awarded funding from Innovate UK to research the potential medical application of a process that permits titanium to be used in place of dense and heavy metal in aircraft.
The development promises patients lighter, stronger, safer and longer-lasting joint replacements with potentially huge savings for the NHS. The Wallwork system is used on landing gear bearings on the Airbus 350 and 380 passenger jets.
Head of R & D at Wallwork, Dr Jonathan Housden explained: “The duplex hard coating process opens the way for a new generation of light, strong, safer and more durable titanium implants.
“These will be more comfortable for the patient with fewer complications caused by post-operative infection and mechanical wear. The programme has promise as an enabling technology that may lead to customised implants made by additive manufacturing.
“The first human trials could be in four years with the process becoming mainstream in seven to 10 years.”
Early mechanical trials to simulate years of use suggest that the new joints will in many cases outlive the patient. This could potentially save the NHS £300 million each year by allowing more efficient use of orthopaedic resources as rework of failed or compromised treatments is avoided.