Finceramica accelerates the manufacture of surgical implants

Giving neurosurgeons direct input into design processes with IBM WebSphere Portal

Published on 23-Jun-2010

Validated on 14 Jan 2014

"We have been partners with IBM for many years, so we were confident in the quality of IBM software. WebSphere Portal impressed us with its ease of use and fit perfectly with our existing hardware and software infrastructure." - Dr. Monica Donati, IT Team Leader, Tampieri Group

Fin-Ceramica Faenza S.p.A. (Finceramica)

Life Sciences, Healthcare

Deployment country:

Business Integration, Enabling Business Flexibility, Optimizing IT, Smarter Planet

Smarter Planet:
Smarter Healthcare

IBM Business Partner:


Fin-Ceramica Faenza S.p.A. (Finceramica) is a cutting-edge biotechnology company that designs, manufactures and markets innovative biomedical solutions for the repair and regeneration of connective tissues. The company has 40 full-time staff working at its headquarters in Faenza, Italy, and also employs 40 sales agents.

Business need:
As part of the design process for its custom-made bioceramic neurosurgical implants, Finceramica needed to find an effective way to help surgeons and other stakeholders to review and approve prototypes quickly. Managing the process by email and courier-delivery was time-consuming, delaying vital surgery for patients.

Solution: helped Finceramica to develop a web portal based on IBM WebSphere technology that allows surgeons to upload patients’ CT scans directly into Finceramica’s 3D modelling system, and view and approve prototypes online.

Enables surgeons to interact directly with 3D modelling technology and provide more precise and accurate feedback on prototype design. Accelerates the prototyping process, potentially enabling implants to be manufactured 30 percent faster than before, and reducing workload for surgeons and staff by approximately 20 percent. Eliminates the need to send CT scans and physical prototypes by courier – reducing costs, errors and delays, and safeguarding sensitive patient data.

Case Study

To read an Italian version of this case study, click here.

Fin-Ceramica Faenza S.p.A. (Finceramica) is a cutting-edge biotechnology company that designs, manufactures and markets innovative biomedical solutions for the repair and regeneration of connective tissues. The company has 40 full-time staff working at its headquarters in Faenza, Italy, and also employs 40 sales agents.

Finceramica’s parent company, Tampieri Financial Group S.p.A., provides administrative, IT and financial services to support its operations. The Tampieri Company was established in 1928 as a manufacturer of vegetable oils and flour and is still 100 percent owned by the Tampieri family. It has grown to become an innovative and diversified organisation: in addition to Finceramica, it also runs eight other companies that operate in the food, import/export, energy, waste water treatment and logistics sectors.

During the last decade, the Tampieri Group has started to invest in Finceramica, which was originally founded as a spin-off of the nearby Institute for Science and Technology for Ceramics (CNR Faenza). Since then, Finceramica has built a remarkable, interdisciplinary network with several other internationally recognized universities, research institutions and clinical centres. The company invests more than 25 percent of its annual revenues in research and development, and all its processes are carried out in compliance with an accredited Quality Assurance System that complies with UNI EN ISO 9001 and UNI EN ISO 13485 standards.

Leading-edge medical technology
“We work with orthopaedic surgeons, dental surgeons and neurosurgeons to create bioceramic implants that can repair or replace patients’ bones, teeth and joints, and aid tissue regeneration,” explains Dr. Claudio De Luca, Director of Operations, Marketing and International Development at Finceramica. “In the field of neurosurgery, many of the implants we make are designed specifically for an individual patient, based on advanced 3D computer models that are generated from CT scans of the patient’s skull.”

Finceramica works with Codman, a Johnson & Johnson company, which acts as a distributor for its neurosurgical implants and liaises with surgeons and other medical professionals at hospitals around the world.

Finding ways to communicate
“In general, new projects come to us through the sales teams, so our engineers don’t have a direct relationship with the surgeons,” says Dr. De Luca. “In the past, this could be a problem because we need the surgeons to accurately review and approve prototypes before we can manufacture the final implants – and it was not always easy to communicate effectively.”

The first stage of the process was for the surgeon to send the CT scan data to Finceramica by courier. The data would be validated and imported into the 3D modelling application and a resin prototype would be created using a 3D printing system. The prototype would then be sent by courier back to the surgeon for review and the surgeon would send feedback by email. Once the prototype had been approved, Finceramica would manufacture the final implant and send it to the surgeon.

“The reliance on couriers could potentially cause delays and errors, especially if the CT scan that we received did not contain all the data we needed for the 3D modelling,” says Dr. De Luca. “There was also a risk that valuable shipments could be lost – which would not only have had a financial impact, but could also have compromised the confidentiality of patient information.”

Creating the Custom Bone Service
To enable more effective interaction with the surgeons and other stakeholders such as the Codman sales teams, the Tampieri Group’s IT team (which provides all IT services for Finceramica) began working with and Materialise NV (Belgium) to create a new solution – a fully integrated web portal known as the ‘Custom Bone Service’, which is built on IBM WebSphere Portal technology.

The project team chose WebSphere Portal because of its versatility and ease of integration with a wide range of web application platforms, including Microsoft® ActiveX® and Java™ as well as portlets created using IBM WebSphere Portlet Factory. The team was also impressed by the stability and security of WebSphere Portal.

“One of the most important requirements was that different users – for example, Finceramica employees, Codman employees and the surgeons themselves – need to be able to access different applications and information,” explains Dr. Monica Donati, IT Team Leader at Tampieri Group. “WebSphere Portal was an ideal choice of platform because it provides simple user management based on predefined roles – ensuring that each user can only access the content that is relevant to them, and thus preserving the confidentiality of patients’ data.”

An end-to-end process
With the Custom Bone Service portal, neurosurgeons can log in from any location using a standard web browser and simply click to create a new clinical case. They input the relevant data about the patient, and upload the data from their CT scanning equipment directly into the Finceramica system via a portal application that automatically checks the validity of the data and imports it into the 3D modelling system.

Finceramica staff then use the 3D model of the skull to design the implant itself. When they have finished, the model is published on the portal and the surgeon is notified that the design is ready for review. The next time the surgeon logs in, he or she can use a 3D animation application within the portal to verify the consistency of the model, rotating and zooming the skull to view the implant from exterior and interior angles, and finally either validating the prosthesis itself or requesting changes. If all is well, the model is then automatically passed to the production department, and the implant is manufactured and shipped to the appropriate hospital.

“All the details of the order, design, production and delivery are managed and tracked by the portal workflow, which involves all players at the right time,” says Alessandra Tampieri, Director of IT at Tampieri Group. “The process reduces workload for our staff and for the surgeons by approximately 20 percent, and the production of the implants can be completed 30 percent faster than before, since there is no need to actually build a physical prototype or wait for couriers to arrive. Equally, there is no longer any chance of sensitive information or prototypes getting lost in the post – so risk and cost are minimised.”

Looking to the future
The Custom Bone Service web portal is already a hit with neurosurgeons, and Finceramica sees it as a key competitive advantage for the future.

Dr. De Luca concludes: “Both Finceramica and Codman are seen as innovators in product concepts and therapeutic solution development. Thanks to this solution from IBM and, we are also seen as pioneers in using leading-edge technologies to work hand-in-hand with medical staff to deliver a better, faster service to patients. Most neurosurgeons are very impressed when they see what we can do, and we have already won a number of new customers as a result of the Custom Bone Service portal.”

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Power Systems, System x

WebSphere Portal, IBM Web Experience Factory

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2010 IBM Italia Circonvallazione Idroscalo 20090 Segrate (MI) Italy Produced in Italy June 2010 All Rights Reserved IBM, the IBM logo, and WebSphere are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. A current list of other IBM trademarks is available on the web at “Copyright and trademark information” at: Microsoft and ActiveX are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. Java and all Java-based trademarks and logos are trademarks of Sun Microsystems, Inc. in the United States, other countries, or both. References in this publication to IBM products, programs or services do not imply that IBM intends to make these available in all countries in which IBM operates. Any reference to an IBM product, program or service is not intended to imply that only IBM’s product, program or service may be used. Any functionally equivalent product, program or service may be used instead. All customer examples cited represent how some customers have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. Actual environmental costs and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. IBM hardware products are manufactured from new parts, or new and used parts. In some cases, the hardware product may not be new and may have been previously installed. Regardless, IBM warranty terms apply. This publication is for general guidance only. Photographs may show design models.