Description of field of research:

Driven by the growing prevalence of degenerative bone conditions due to aging and disease, the global orthopaedic implant market has skyrocketed in the past few years and is expected to reach $9 billion by 2024. The Australian orthopaedic implant market totalled $47.1 million in 2015 with a high-single digit growth rate and the market is expected to maintain its long-term growth trajectory through 2022. Currently, the biomaterials used most widely for fabricating load-bearing orthopaedic implants are inherently bioinert metals such as Ti-6Al-4V. However, there is a strong demand from the orthopaedic implant market for better performing biomaterials that enable implants with enhanced functionalities and improved patient outcomes. Shape memory alloy (SMA) is one of the most attractive metallic biomaterials mainly due to its unique shape memory properties, excellent apposition to human bones, along with high hardness and ductility. The unique and inherent shape memory properties of SMA endows SMA components with many unparalleled properties. Therefore, this project aims to design and additive manufacturing (i.e., 3D printing) a class of topology optimised porous structures with desired properties from SMA, assisted by an innovative machine learning based approach.


Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering

Research areas

Additive manufacturing, 3D printing, machine learning, structure design and medical devices

Dr Xiaopeng Li is currently a Senior Lecturer and ARC DECRA Fellow in the School Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at UNSW Sydney, leading a research group working on additive manufacturing and advanced materials research. Dr Li is also a visiting scholar at Stanford University and at EPFL. Now Dr Li's group consists of 12 PhD students and. The new additive manufacturing laboratory is equipped with two cutting-edge metal additive manufacturing machines and post-processing facilities including high vacuum furnace, etc. Overall, approximately $3M AUD has been invested since 2017 to create a perfect research environment for this project. In 2020, Dr Li is listed as World's Top 2% Scientists in Materials & Applied Physics & Enabling Strategic Technologies (single year in 2019) in the database of the most-cited scientists developed at Stanford University.

The outcomes of this project will fill the critical knowledge gap and open up new opportunities for future orthopaedic applications of novel metallic materials. Its outcomes have far-reaching implications for bioactive metallic materials design and additive manufacturing. This research has the potential to impact our lives through the creation of novel materials for application in the healthcare industry, e.g., orthopaedic implants, especially with the rapidly growing ageing population in recent years. Therefore, this project is of considerable economic, scientific and environmental significance and will greatly contribute to Australia's national interest.