Additive Manufacturing (AM) has been applied in dentistry for decades. AM technologies have contributed to digitization in dentistry or digital dentistry.
Digital dentistry is still a growing market. With dropping costs for metal AM systems as better process control, more and more dental labs make use of the technology. Predominantly, better control over thermal distortions of metal parts, has enabled the business case for larger parts such as partial dentures or so called removeables.
What are the applications ?
Dental replacements in direct metal
Laser Powder Bed Fusion metal (aka Selective Laser Melting / Direct Metal Laser Sintering) found one of its’ first applications in dental industry. Dental replacements such as bridges and copings are generated layer-by-layer in cobalt-chromium alloys on industrial production scale.
All parts are custom made, always one-offs in a material that is hard to machine with CNC milling makes metal L-PBF ideal for this application.
How does it work?
The dentist takes an impression and a plaster model is created.
This model is digitized by laser or white/blue light scanning or a
direct intra-oral scan is taken. The data gets send to a lab where
dental technicians model fully digital the replacement. This can be a
single coping or a 24 piece bridge. Special software can be used to
automatically orientate and place the parts in the process preparation.
The support structures required can also be generated fully automated.
Small tags with numbers can be attached for easier identification of the parts.
The usual turnover of a build on a large L-PBF system takes between
12 and 24 hours. Hundreds of units can be created in one run.
Smaller systems generate a batch of 30 to 60 units in about 4 – 8 hours.
Clear aligners became more and more popular to replace classic braces.
How does it work?
An impression is taken what is used to create a plaster model. This model is scanned or a direct intraoral scan is taken. This data is used to correct the position of the teeth digitally. As the teeth are moved step by step, several digital models with the intermediate position of teeth are created. These models are created using AM technologies such as Photopolymerisation and Polyjet technologies. The models created are used as a jig in second process. A thin sheet of polymer is heated up and wrapped over a model to capture its’ shape. This process is called Plastic Thermoforming.
After cutting off the edges and smoothing these the final part is ready to package. Watch this video to see how-highly automated this process chain can look like.
But it doesn’t have to be a multi-million dollar investment. Vat-Photo-polymerization and Polyjet systems have become more affordable over the last years. More and more smaller dental labs are implementing these technologies today.
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It’s not always about patient specific parts in dental.
AM technologies offer more advantages over the ability to realize mass-customization:
Titanium Dental implants
Leader Italia Srl uses Selective Laser Melting/Direct Metal Laser Sintering
to produce Titanium implants to replace teeth. Check this video for more info.
The sponge like surface of the implants enhances osseo-integration, which improves the structural integrity.
Are you interested to implement Additive Manufacturing technologies in your business? Contact us