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Start-up for absorbable magnesium implants

From university graduate to entrepreneur – favourable framework conditions on campus are invaluable for innovations.

Plenty of bright minds, intensive intellectual exchange and the drive to make a difference – universities offer the ideal environment for establishing a start-up, as we have previously described in our blog post on test systems. A scientific spin-off is a particularly effective vehicle for getting new technologies into use in industry, with university research work forming the foundation on which the start-ups are built. This is also how the rising stars behind Aachen-based Meotec came to establish their business. The company specialises in the electrochemical surface modification of magnesium for absorbable implants. In this post, we will highlight the benefits of the process and show how the company puts our profile technology to good use.

Absorbable implants with an added bonus

After completing his mechanical engineering studies at RWTH Aachen University, where he majored in production engineering, Alexander Kopp founded Meotec in 2011. His start-up was the first company to receive support from the Cluster Biomedical Engineering headed by Professor Thomas Schmitz-Rode. This support included use of the new buildings on the Melaten campus. The company is now based at Triwo Technopark Aachen. Building on Alexander Kopp’s dissertation research, Meotec developed absorbable magnesium implants for fixing fractures, including bone screws and plates, for example.

Absorbable implants – that is to say, implants that dissolve in the body, thereby eliminating the need for a second operation – have been around for a while. “However, since our implants are made of magnesium rather than polymers, they are stronger and less prone to deformation,” says Kopp. One key step is needed to make the magnesium suitable for the planned area of application since, without it, the implant would be absorbed too quickly by the body, which could ultimately lead to rejection. Thanks to a special surface treatment, the absorbable magnesium implants dissolve gradually over a carefully planned time frame. As a result, the healing bone always has the space it needs. According to Kopp, the combination of high-quality materials and controlled absorption is a “revolution that will transform the market”.

Customised solutions for special requirements

To meet the needs of a major medical technology customer that produces implants and other medical devices, the company had to develop a highly specialised surface treatment plant for the magnesium. This involved much more than just a technological enhancement. “Part of our profile is that we deliver more than just theoretical technology, we also ‘industrialise’ it,” says Kopp. Inside the plant, which is built using our Line XMS, the implants are first washed then covered in a ceramic conversion coat. Here too, the components are made of magnesium that is converted into a magnesium ceramic. A validated final cleaning process follows in the same plant so that the parts can be packaged.

The sealing groove and smooth, unbroken outer surfaces of Line XMS really came to the fore.

Since the products and plants from Meotec tend to be highly specialised, they are generally one-offs, and so require an extremely diverse range of materials. The building kit system principle, which has been at the heart of item since day one, is the ideal solution. In addition, there are the quality requirements for clean rooms that are typical of this industry. The characteristics of XMS in this regard were “one of the determining factors” in the decision, says Kopp. Thanks to its series-standard sealing groove and smooth, unbroken outer surfaces, the strengths of Line XMS really came to the fore.

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