The effect of surface topography and porosity on the tensile fatigue of 3D printed Ti-6Al-4V fabricated by selective laser melting

Mater Sci Eng C Mater Biol Appl. 2019 May:98:726-736. doi: 10.1016/j.msec.2019.01.024. Epub 2019 Jan 9.


Additive manufacturing (3D printing) is emerging as a key manufacturing technique in medical devices. Selective laser melted (SLM) Ti-6Al-4V implants with interconnected porosity have become widespread in orthopedic applications where porous structures encourage bony ingrowth and the stiffness of the implant can be tuned to reduce stress shielding. The SLM technique allows high resolution control over design, including the ability to introduce porosity with spatial variations in pore size, shape, and connectivity. This study investigates the effect of construct design and surface treatment on tensile fatigue behavior of 3D printed Ti-6Al-4V. Samples were designed as solid, solid with an additional surface porous layer, or fully porous, while surface treatments included commercially available rotopolishing and SILC cleaning. All groups were evaluated for surface roughness and tested in tension to failure under monotonic and cyclic loading profiles. Surface treatments were shown to reduce surface roughness for all sample geometries. However, only fatigue behavior of solid samples was improved for treated as compared to non-treated surfaces Irrespective of surface treatment and resulting surface roughness, the fatigue strength of 3D printed samples containing bulk or surface porosity was approximately 10% of the ultimate tensile strength of identical 3D printed porous material. This study highlights the relative effect of surface treatment in solid and porous printed samples and the inherent decrease in fatigue properties of 3D printed porous samples designed for osseointegration.

Keywords: Fatigue; Porosity; Selective laser melting; Surface roughness; Ti-6Al-4V.

MeSH terms

  • Biocompatible Materials / chemistry
  • Lasers*
  • Materials Testing
  • Porosity
  • Printing, Three-Dimensional*
  • Surface Properties
  • Titanium / chemistry*


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Titanium