The modern medical industry successfully utilizes Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) to manufacture complex custom implants. Ti6Al4V is one of the most commonly used biocompatible alloys. In surgery practice, infection at the bone-implant interface is one of the key reasons for implant failure. Therefore, advanced implants with biocompatibility and antibacterial properties are required. Modification of Ti alloy with Cu, which in small concentrations is a proven non-toxic antibacterial agent, is an attractive way to manufacture implants with embedded antibacterial functionality. The possibility of achieving alloying in situ, during manufacturing, is a unique option of the LPBF technology. It provides unique opportunities to manufacture customized implant shapes and design new alloys. Nevertheless, optimal process parameters need to be established for the in situ alloyed materials to form dense parts with required mechanical properties. This research is dedicated to an investigation of Ti6Al4V (ELI)-1 at % Cu material, manufactured by LPBF from a mixture of Ti6Al4V (ELI) and pure Cu powders. The effect of process parameters on surface roughness, chemical composition and distribution of Cu was investigated. Chemical homogeneity was discussed in relation to differences in the viscosity and density of molten Cu and Ti6Al4V. Microstructure, mechanical properties, and fracture behavior of as-built 3D samples were analyzed and discussed. Pilot antibacterial functionalization testing of Ti6Al4V (ELI) in situ alloyed with 1 at % Cu showed promising results and notable reduction in the growth of pure cultures of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus.
Keywords: Ti6Al4V-Cu alloy; antibacterial properties; implants; in situ alloying; microstructure and chemical homogeneity.