Laser sintering enables automated manufacture of dental work

Production methods like laser sintering provide dental restorations that are comparatively more affordable, more readily available, and of high quality

One particular sector of the rapidly growing healthcare industry is expanding even further: the market for dental implants. Even with the best of dental hygiene, nearly everyone will at some point or other need a dental implant of some sort. Cost consciousness, especially during the current difficult economic circumstances, is increasing all the more. There are already automated processing centers producing individual dental implants of the highest accuracy out of EOS CobaltChrome SP2, a biocompatible and CE-certified material, with e-Manufacturing using laser sintering.

According to a survey conducted by the Millenium Research Group, the European market for dental crowns and bridges will continue to grow steadily in the next few years. The factors expected to influence this development are manifold. Technological innovations in the field of manufacturing methods, such as laser sintering, are all part of the process. New treatment methods as well as new materials are additional factors that will increase the number of dental restorations in the coming years. The survey calculated the market value in Germany in 2007 for crowns and bridges already to be US$ 900M - almost one half of the European dental industry's entire turnover. The Millenium Research Group estimates that the European market for crowns and bridges will grow annually by an average rate of eight percent until 2012.

Technological advancements in the field of dental care are contributing to this by employing production methods like laser sintering to provide dental restorations that are simultaneously more affordable, more readily available, and of high quality.

Until now, dental implants have traditionally been made out of metal via a casting process. This process enabled a technician to produce 20 dental frames per day. Laser-sintering is a significantly superior method: one fully automated laser sintering machine can produce up to 450 parts for dental crowns and bridges within 24 hours, and all of the finished parts will be of the same consistently high quality. The time savings and the financial advantage that the dental laboratories gain are huge. The "messy" tasks of deflasking and cleaning moulds are dispensed with, thus allowing the dental technician to concentrate on his or her core competence, namely the post-processing of the metal structure and its aesthetic upgrade: ceramic veneering.

EOS's EOSINT M 270 laser sintering system can manufacture dental implants by "direct metal laser sintering" (DMLS) using a focused solid-state laser. The machine uses CAD data to produce, from metal powder and in only a few hours, the most complex of geometries which exhibit excellent mechanical properties, surface quality, and detail resolution. The CE-certified EOS CobaltChrome SP2 alloy was developed by EOS especially for the dental industry for use in the EOSINT M 270.

EOS demonstrated the entire process chain at the 33rd International Dental Show (IDS) from 24 to 28 March 2009 in Cologne. All the steps involved in laser sintering crowns and bridges were shown, from the initial scanner to the creation of the 3D CAD data and the laser sintering machine, and ending with the finished veneered product - the skill that will remain in the hands of the dental technician. Martin Bullemer, EOS Key Account Manager Medical is convinced that "cost control as well as flexible and rapid product cycles will determine the future of the dental industry. Manufacturing with laser-sintering can offer all of this."

Dental models of the future
The further development of dental CAD/CAM applications with new impression and intraoral scanners will make it possible to send high-quality data directly to the processing centre. The only thing missing would be a dental model for occlusion testing and post-processing, or a workpiece holder for use during veneering.

Such a model can be laser sintered on a FORMIGA P 100 from PA 2200, a top-quality plastic, on the basis of already available data. Consequently, laser sintering provides a complete solution for the manufacture of dental implants.

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