ANALYSIS & OPINION

AM gets its teeth into dentistry at International Dental Show

EOS has presented partial dentures created using Direct Laser Metal Sintering (DMLS) techniques at this year International Dental Show (IDS) in Cologne, Germany, between 10 and 14 March 2015. Concept Laser were also present, providing a ‘breath of fresh air’ at the show with a selection of entry-level, small build envelope products for dental laboratories. AM is offering the dental industry a time-saving, accurate and potentially better performing alternative to conventional methods of producing dental products.

Stratasys, who offer a number of 3D printers aimed at the dental market, were also at IDS. Avi Cohen, director of global dental for Stratasys, explained that there has been a few teething problems in the adoption of AM in the dental market when speaking the week before the show.

He said: ‘With any new technology, there may be obstacles that delay adoption. With digital dentistry some may argue that the initial cost of buying a 3D printer and the materials may cause further considerations. Although, with the cost of laboratory work - a major factor in dental restoration planning and therapy - a growing number of forward-thinking dental labs are adopting digital dentistry as a viable option over plaster moulds, since 3D printing significantly reduces the cost per model.’

He added that another consideration dentists may have is the re-training of ‘traditional’ dentists to adopt 3D printing as a complementary technology within the industry. However, the new generation of dentists joining the industry are armed with training in CAD and 3D printing and we are seeing this new generation driving digital dentistry.

Also, Cohen said: ‘With the cost of laboratory work becoming a major factor in dental restoration planning and therapy; we are seeing an increase in the adoption of digital dentistry by dental labs. This enables them to improve efficiencies and provide a higher level of patient care. With an increased range of superior intraoral scanners and associated software now available on the market, more and more dental labs of all sizes are exploring and installing the level of 3D printing technology that suits their company’s size and budget.

‘Most notably, this year we have seen an explosion of devices dedicated to digital imaging, impressioning and CAD/CAM fabrication of restorations – both chairside and in the lab. With the roll out of new 3D printing systems, materials and capabilities over the coming year, many believe that more dentists will begin to see the technology as a viable alternative for their practices.’

According to EOS, the dental industry has now accepted additive manufacturing (AM) as a useable process for products with nearly 100 of the company’s systems installed worldwide. EOS said five million units are produced each year which includes partial dentures, dental crowns and dental models.

Concept Laser has noticed growth, with dental technology turnover in 2014 improving by 75 per cent when compared to the previous year. Oliver Edelmann, vice president of global sales and marketing, Concept Laser: ‘Although dental technology is not the greatest mainstay of turnover, it is a technically very sophisticated segment that is continuously growing and also has extensive potential worldwide. At the IDS 2015, with the new M2 cusing and our materials expertise, we are focusing on the specific requirements of digital dental laboratories.’

The most relevant model for dental technology from the Lichtenfels-based, Germany, company is its small Mlab cusing series. Concept Laser said a key feature of the Mlab cusing R is the drawer principle with a handling station for the safe handling of material. The patented drawer allows material to be changed quickly without any risk of contaminating powder materials.

Edelmann continues: ‘The 200W laser is of particular interest to dental technology. It makes very sophisticated components possible, which are ideal for multi-unit bridge structures. Extremely high surface quality is the result. A new feature is the multilaser technology with 2 x 200W lasers, which can, of course, also process reactive materials, such as titanium.’

LaserCusing technology from Concept Laser is being used in the dental industry

EOS described the benefits of using AM compared to more established techniques. Conventionally a dental prosthesis is produced using a wax model based on a cast model to create the part which can be time consuming. But EOS said that with AM the part can be produced quickly ‘with just a few clicks using the flexibility of design offered by the modelling software. This leads to high strength, rigid and at the same time filigree geometries, while casting errors are eliminated.’

Martin Bullemer, business development manager medical at EOS, explained: ‘Compared to the conventional approaches that have been used up to now to produce removable partial dentures, clear competitive advantages can be achieved using AM.

‘Digitally manufactured partial dentures have been tested with pilot customers. The feedback has been very positive, encouraging us to continue to develop and optimise the application.’

Michaela Flussfisch, managing director of dental laboratory Flussfisch in Hamburg, said: ‘During the pilot phase, we produced partial dentures based on Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) technology from EOS. Digitally manufactured dental prostheses have consistent tolerances and quality as well as reproducible properties – and at the same time are very accurate, allowing a good fit.’

The EOS metal system EOSINT M 270 Dental is used to make removable partial dentures with the CE-certified material EOS CobaltChrome RPD. During the additive manufacturing process, the fine powder particles ensure a fine-grain structure so that a digitally produced dental prosthesis has much higher strength and fatigue resistance than a casting.

EOS is also presenting the smaller EOS M 100 system for the first time at IDS. The system provides the dental industry with an entry-level AM system based on metal technology. With its small build volume and 100mm diameter circular platform, dental laboratories can now economically manufacture high quality crowns and bridges from the certified material EOS CobaltChrome SP2.

Stratasys’ Cohen concluded: ‘We might look back at this year as the moment that dental laboratories passed the point of no return from a traditional manual workflow toward an all-digital design and manufacturing process. In many respects, digital dentistry is already here, with a growing number of laboratory owners incorporating it in some form into their strategic business models.

‘For many dental professionals, this evolution has been a long-awaited and welcome transition to a more rapid and labour-saving process that improves quality and precision while keeping businesses competitive.’

Related links:

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