Last year, Michael Marcroft (VP of Business Development at SINTX) had the privilege of attending several orthopedic medical conferences covering specialty areas of spine, foot/ankle, knee/hip, and dentistry. Several discussions, meetings, and projects that resulted with prospective customers all revealed a common theme; that medical device companies are excited about the prospect of coating metal materials with silicon nitride. Knowing the many superior properties of our materials, it makes good sense that medical device firms would be thrilled about the idea of coating their metal-based products with silicon nitride.
First, adding a coating to a metallic implant makes it possible to combine functional properties from the two to make a single, superior product. For example, the mechanical performance of titanium can be imbued with bacteriostatic, osteoconductive, and imaging properties of a silicon nitride coating. Early tests have shown that these benefits do, in fact, remain even if the silicon nitride is only coated onto the metal (vs. implanting a solid, monolith silicon nitride implant)*. These results are a testament to the strength of silicon nitride as an effective bioceramic material.
Second, coating a metal implant enables the manufacturer to minimize costs associated with implementing a new material into their product line. The size of the implant, insertion tools, and packaging could largely remain the same if the silicon nitride coating was only a few microns thick. The costs associated with training clinician customers on a new product would also be minimized, since the implant would effectively be an iterative enhancement of the underlying metal device that the clinician has likely been implanting for some time.
Finally, by making a material change which is highly visible to clinician customers, the medical device manufacturer is recognized for innovation. Unlike changes to product pricing, packaging, or microscopic structure designs, coating a titanium implant with silicon nitride communicates a significant product offering change to the customer. What was previously a shiny silver implant will become a very dark shade of gray. This enables the medical device manufacturer to receive the credit they deserve for making an enhancement on behalf of clinicians and their patients. As we continue discussions with other medical device companies, rest assured that silicon nitride coatings will only grow in importance. SINTX is fully committed to innovating all things silicon nitride. Coatings and composites are truly the future for this amazing material. To learn more about FleX-SN for biomedical implants, please visit here or fill out our contact form for more information.
*See Article: In Vitro Comparison of Bioactive Silicon Nitride Laser Cladding on Different Substrates ; Appl. Sci. 2020, 10, 9039; doi:10.3390/app10249039, www.mdpi.com/journal/applsci.