The medical device industry's interest in open porous, metallic biomaterials has increased in response to additive manufacturing techniques enabling the production of complex shapes that cannot be produced with conventional techniques. Tantalum is an important metal for medical devices because of its good biocompatibility. In this study selective laser melting technology was used for the first time to manufacture highly porous pure tantalum implants with fully interconnected open pores. The architecture of the porous structure in combination with the material properties of tantalum result in mechanical properties close to those of human bone and allow for bone ingrowth. The bone regeneration performance of the porous tantalum was evaluated in vivo using an orthotopic load-bearing bone defect model in the rat femur. After 12 weeks, substantial bone ingrowth, good quality of the regenerated bone and a strong, functional implant bone interface connection were observed. Compared to identical porous Ti-6Al-4V structures, laser-melted tantalum shows excellent osteoconductive properties, has a higher normalized fatigue strength and allows for more plastic deformation due to its high ductility. It is therefore concluded that this is a first step towards a new generation of open porous tantalum implants manufactured using selective laser melting. (C) 2014 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.