Fort Wayne Metals began with a focus on research and innovation. More than 75 years later, that’s still the focus, and the company has become a worldwide leader in developing products used by the medical and aerospace industries. Engineers work with a variety of materials, but one area of special interest right now involves magnesium in orthopedic settings.
The idea itself isn’t new. The first recorded instance of magnesium as an implant dates back to 1878, but it didn’t always work well and sometimes caused adverse reactions. When stainless steel became commercially available, it became the material of choice.
“Stainless steel is very predictable in the body. You can put a stainless steel plate in and know that it’s going to work,” explains senior research and development engineer Adam Griebel.
“One of the downsides, though, is that it’s not going to move,” adds director of research and development Jeremy Schaffer. “If you’re a small child and break your arm and your bones need to elongate and grow over time, that stainless steel will get in the way and surgeons have to go back in and remove that plate, but doing so creates extra risk for infection. Since stainless steel bears the brunt of the stress when the body is in motion, the bone actually weakens under the implant. Having a magnesium implant that will eventually go away and give that load back to the body ultimately makes the body stronger.”
In the medical device industry, Fort Wayne Metals is widely known for its materials knowledge. With a new class of materials like absorbable magnesium, much of that expertise must be built up through extensive investigations of properties like strength, absorption time and biocompatibility. Since magnesium is a nutrient metal, studies have shown little to no risk of long-term toxicity to the body. Still, the science behind it is complex.
“If you’re trying to fix a bone it heals in about six weeks, so you want the magnesium implant to be pretty strong throughout that time. If it degrades away in about a year, that’s ideal,” says Griebel. “But if magnesium is going to be used as a staple for a stomach surgery, then maybe you only need it for a couple of weeks — it’s procedure specific. In general, the biggest challenge with the absorbable metals is getting the time frame right.”
“We get calls from engineers all over the world,” says chief commercial officer Kimberly Shoppell. “We work with some of the largest medical device companies, but we also work with tiny startup companies. We believe in collaboration and developing relationships.”
Though calls can come from all over the world, they often come from very close to home. Fort Wayne Metals has partnered with Warsaw-based Medartis US on a particular magnesium alloy in orthopedic space. In the vascular space, they are also working with Zorion Medical, an Indiana-based startup that’s making a fully absorbable scaffold out of magnesium to help reduce complications for patients. First in-human clinical trials are planned at Parkview Hospital.
Shoppell says Fort Wayne Metals has remained true to its mission of continuous improvement and is fueled by a desire to help enhance the lives of others. Founded by Ardelle Glaze in 1946, his son Scott is now the CEO. “He is an incredible leader and the things he does for the community are a reflection of how he treats his customers and employees in general,” says Shoppell. “I feel very fortunate to work for such a good organization. We have amazing people who do incredible things with our materials.”
Owner(s): Scott Glaze, Chief Executive Officer and Jeremy Rohrs, President & COO
Address: 9609 Ardmore Ave., Fort Wayne, Indiana 46809
Phone: (260) 747-4154
Years in Business: 50+
Number of Employees: 1,270
Products & Services: We work with a wide range of materials from stainless steel and Cobalt-Chrome to Titanium and Nitinol; we specialize in high-quality medical grade wire.