ConceptLaser-Digitization in Dental Technology

  • Fresdental: CAD/CAM manufacturing center for dental laboratories
  • Using additive technologies for industrial manufacturing of dentures in an effective process chain

Lichtenfels (Germany) January, 19th, 2015: Dental laboratories are facing a digital upheaval. Until now, hand-cast, machined and refined dentures have been the mainstays of dental technology for dentists. Increasingly, however, laser-melted implants, abutments, crowns and bridges are being used in the dentistry field. The Fresdental manufacturing center in Spain is one example of the digital industrialization of dental technology that is changing the face of dentistry.

Fresdental works with dental laboratories as a manufacturing center for the industrial production of implants, bridges and crowns. It was founded in 1999 near Alicante. As a service provider for dental laboratories, Fresdental can manufacture custom-tailored dentures very quickly.

Digital service provider: CAD working stations at Fresdental (Photo courtesy of Fresdental)

Digital service provider: CAD working stations at Fresdental  (Photo courtesy of Fresdental)

The cornerstone of Fresdental’s business is implants, which account for approximately 70% of its sales. The company documents this experience in a specialized database known as the “Implant Library.” Dental technicians all over the Spanish-speaking world are very familiar with Fresdental: its customers include over 240 dental laboratories across the Iberian Peninsula and South America. The company uses conventional denture production methods like 3-axis DSC milling machines and, since 2005, CAD/CAM techniques such as laser melting of metals. Fresdental also supports dental laboratories in the production of 3D models for intraoral scanners.

Francisco Perez Carrio, Denture Technologist (Fresdental): “Laser melting of metals is a logical expression of digitization in the production, which allows us to achieve the highest quality standards. Laser melting is the future – there’s no escaping it.”  (Photo courtesy of Fresdental)

Francisco Perez Carrio, Denture Technologist (Fresdental): “Laser melting of metals is a logical expression of digitization in the production, which allows us to achieve the highest quality standards. Laser melting is the future – there’s no escaping it.”  (Photo courtesy of Fresdental)

Industrial Level Combines Efficiency and Quality
Of the 11 total machines in the 840m2 production space, two are from the digital age: “Our two Mlab cusing laser melting systems from Concept Laser are an example of the increased use of advanced CAD/CAM methods in dental technology,” explains denture engineer Francisco Perez Carrio, also noting that CAD/CAM technology in dentistry arrived early in Spain.

For Carrio, the reasons for this are clear: the more affordable price, the ability to produce multiple dentures in a single building job on a single building board, and the high rate of speed to arrive at the final product are key benefits. However, the technology also earns points for its low energy consumption, material reuse, absence of tool requirements and reduced staff costs. “We can actually produce more dental products with fewer people,” says Perez Carrio. “Compared to traditional, manual-production-based dental laboratories, digital manufacturing is extremely cost-efficient and offer enormous advantages in terms of quality. The cost of producing an average denture is around 20 euros. With LaserCUSING, it drops to slightly less than 10 euros. Basically, we’re talking at least half the price.

As an industrial manufacturing center, we see ourselves as a service provider of choice as well as an extension of the dental laboratory. Laser melting of metals is a logical expression of digitization in production, which allows us to achieve the highest quality standards. Laser melting is the future – there’s no escaping it.”

High Accuracy and Delicate Design
Fresdental specialized early on in highly complex geometries. And it’s in this area, with its wide-span designs or orthodontically embedded implants, where the free-form process scores major points. “In terms of fit, geometric freedom or delicate constructions, the technology provides new opportunities for dental technicians and dentists,” explains Perez Carrio. “Basically, it allows us to create designs that better benefit the patient. The additively constructed designs are superior to conventionally produced dentures in both performance and durability. “The additive structure allows safe ceramic veneering, such as through innovative ceramics.

Surface faults that occur with casting, such as bubbles, are non-existent with laser melting. With rapid manufacturing methods like laser melting, the lab can select the most functional and affordable dental prosthetic solution based on the customer’s needs, be it crowns and bridges, frameworks, abutments, primary and secondary structures or implant supra-constructions.

Industrial Manufacturing with Full Process Parameter Control
The type of material selected, according to Perez Carrio, depends on the application. The trend is toward flexibly insertable, transparent and tooth-colored materials. The LaserCUSING process makes it possible to economically produce caps, bridge structures, abutments, cast parts, as well as primary and secondary structures from powder. In addition to mechanical equipment, the alloy powder used is essential for a high-quality prosthetic framework: The composition, powder form, grain size and grain size distribution determine the quality and precision of the parts produced. “For us, it’s important to be able to influence all the process parameters during the construction process,” says Perez Carrio. “This lets us define and customize not only the geometry, but also the density, stiffness and elasticity or modulus of the final product as desired.”

Abutments, Crowns and bridges manufactured by Fresdental using laser melting technology-dental parts with supporting structures on base plate (Photo courtesy of Fresdental)

Abutments, Crowns and bridges manufactured by Fresdental using laser melting technology-dental parts with supporting structures on base plate  (Photo courtesy of Fresdental)

Another factor is the combination of module or multi-component construction. Base elements implanted into the jawbone are used as primary structures. An additively manufactured foundation element is then put into place as a secondary structure, onto which a secure, durable veneer such as HeraCeram is applied. Manufacturing companies like Fresdental have many years of experience as pioneers in production technologies and are considered digital experts in the orthodontics industry.

Strategies for Reducing Tension
This advanced technology not only allows bridges with more than 10 sections, for instance, to be manufactured tension-free in a one-step process, it also allows their increased use in high-impact areas, as cantilevers, around edges or with brace elastics. With model casting, that’s not always an easy problem to solve. Tension in the construction is reduced through heat treatment. This includes tension that occurs when the rough product is fired in the ceramic oven for cosmetic coating purposes. “There are many different methods for reducing tension, even if we still need training in some of them,” adds Perez Carrio.

Future Trend: Digital Process Chain
A continuous digital process chain is the next step in the laser melting for dental technology. Intraoral scanners are therefore high on the priority list for Fresdental. The reason is simple: Intraoral scanners, used by dentists to generate primary digital data, can be used for digital generation of STL design data. “The continuous digital process chain from the patient to the dental product will accelerate data migration both in terms of quality and speed. Intraoral scanners will soon become standard in dentists’ offices. Laser melting of metals is a logical expression of digitization in production. Laser melting is the future – there’s no escaping it,” says Perez Carrio.

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Laser Concept Interview with Francisco Perez Carrio, Denture Technologist (Fresdental)

Editor: Why do dental laboratories need a downstream manufacturing center?

Perez Carrio: The majority of dental laboratories work very locally with dentists. In manufacturing and finishing, many options come into play, and not every lab can offer every process. For CAD/CAM techniques, implants and highly complex geometries, local dental laboratories enjoy working with an industrial service provider like Fresdental as an extension of their production operations and as a partner. The high efficiency, speed and affordability of laser melting benefit the entire supply chain.

Editor: Is this integrated process chain a trend?

Perez Carrio: Yes, and it’s fast-growing. Dental technology is currently undergoing radical changes. These changes are affecting products, customer requirements and business processes. Digital process networking is linking dentists, laboratories and dental manufacturing more closely than ever and putting everyone involved under pressure to act. The entire process chain, from impression-making to prosthetic restoration, is undergoing a dynamic transition—a trend away from casting or milling and toward digital, additive manufacturing.

Editor: How are additive processes changing denture design?

Perez Carrio: Denture design is changing dramatically. Milled frameworks in particular have significant disadvantages due to material consumption, high production costs and system-related lower quality in terms of fit and shape retention.

During casting, we also encounter disadvantages in terms of low material density, geometric freedom, production time and rework. Nearly all of these disadvantages disappear with laser melting. Stiffness and elasticity can be tailored to the needs of the patient.

In the case of geometry, span width or braces, the technology improves the performance of dental prosthetics enormously. It not only allows bridges with more than 10 sections, for instance, to be manufactured tension-free in a one-step process, it also allows their increased use in high-impact areas, as cantilevers, around edges or with brace elastics. In model casting, that’s not always an easy problem to solve. Printed dentures are more versatile, offer increased performance, higher quality and can be produced industrially and cost-effectively. CAD/CAM methods are technological advances that offer better quality of life.

Editor: Is milling or casting still an option for dental laboratories?

Perez Carrio: Absolutely. It sounds strange, but in the future dental technologists will have a “hybrid” way of thinking: milling and casting where desirable but with additive manufacturing as a top alternative.

“Adding instead of taking away” is the motto. The casting process, from creating the cast object to the finished product, is usually very time consuming and can lead to distortion, especially with large-span restorations. Additive processes let us ensure greater contour accuracy much more easily than milling and use a lot less material. Our workplaces in dental technology are also cleaner thanks to CAD/CAM: less dust, less bonding agent, glue and outgassing. Ultimately, the deciding factor is quality. Compared to casting and milling, additive printing processes are creating entirely new ways of thinking in terms of design, production, workflow and the products themselves.

Editor: Why did you choose the Mlab cusing system from Concept Laser?

Perez Carrio: It all started back at the 2005 IDS show. We compared several machines and put each of them to the test. No other machine produced the desired results. The Mlab cusing is a very compact solution based on the drawer principle. Switching materials is therefore no problem. For us, being able choose from a variety of materials based on the specific purpose of the product is also important.

Concept Laser, and Dentaurum as well, are very actively involved in the validation and certification of materials for the dental industry. As a reputable company that manufactures health products, we like to work with other industry-recognized companies as well. Mlab cusing also gives us direct influence over process parameters, which can be very important in terms of product quality.

Editor: What developments do you expect in the medium term?

Perez Carrio: A continuous digital process chain comes to mind. Conventional dental impressions can’t be the only analog alternative. Intraoral scanners, used by dentists to generate primary digital data, can be used for digital generation of STL design data. This ensures a better fit and largely eliminates data collection errors.

The continuous digital process chain from the patient to the dental product will accelerate data migration both in terms of quality and speed. A high-quality intraoral scanner costs dentists today about 15,000 euros. Prices will fall over time. Intraoral scanners will soon become a standard in dentists’ offices.

Laser melting of metals is a logical expression of digitization in production, which allows us to achieve the highest quality standards. Laser melting is the future – there’s no escaping it. In the long term, however, that is unavoidable. Quality assurance and documentation needs will make open, manufacturer-independent data transfer an increasingly critical requirement.

Editor: Will laser melting continue to grow in importance?

Perez Carrio: Quality requirements and price indicate so. Dental technologists who don’t convert to digital solutions will run into serious problems in the future. The future of dental technology will most certainly be digital.

Editor: Thank you for talking with us.

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Phase of Additive Manufacturing Using Laser Technology in Dentistry
Once the 3D CAD data is complete, the support structures are set up with the help of a data processing software. Different software solutions are available for this purpose, such as CAMbridge or Autofab Mlab, which allows manufacturers to set specific measurements for dental implants.

With Concept Laser systems, the customer is able to choose freely and is not bound by any software. The processed data is then transmitted to the machine via the network or USB port and the construction job is started. With this process, you can finish a project fully automatically overnight.

Once complete, the components are removed from the building platform and refinished. After manually removing the support structures, the surface is then microblasted with aluminum oxide and, in the case of bridges, the crown edges are thinned down. The support structures are manually removed and the denture refined with a handpiece. After about 2-3 minutes, the denture is ready for shipping, or for veneering at Fresdental or in the dental laboratories. This time-saving process is appreciated by dentists and patients alike: within two days – essentially the time it takes to manufacture and ship the product – the denture is ready to be inserted at the dentists’ office.

Abutments, Crowns and bridges manufactured by Fresdental using laser melting technology-dental parts with supporting structures on base plate (Photo courtesy of Fresdental)

Abutments, Crowns and bridges manufactured by Fresdental using laser melting technology-dental parts with supporting structures on base plate  (Photo courtesy of Fresdental)

Fresdental facts and figures

  • Manufacturing center for dental laboratories
  • Year founded: 1999
  • Products: Implants (70% of sales) and crowns + bridges (30% of sales)
  • In-house implant database
  • 22 employees
  • 840m2 production area
  • 11 machines
  • Customers: over 240 dental laboratories
  • Regions: Spain, Portugal, Colombia, Peru and Chile
  • Sales: EUR 1.5 million (2013

Mechanical Characteristics of Laser Melted Dental Products

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Figure 1: Mechanical characteristics (Source: Dentaurum, Ispringen, Germany)

Advantages of Laser Melting of Metals Compared to Other Metallurgical Processes in Dental Technology

  • Material savings
  • Energy efficiency
  • Decentralized production
  • Time savings (faster development and production)
  • No tooling costs
  • Certified original materials with corresponding material properties
  • Construction flexibility for process-oriented designs with higher performance profiles
  • Density and elasticity adjustable to improve performance
  • Tension-free components through heat treatment
  • Lower staff requirements
  • Quality advantages
  • Delicate designs
  • Comprehensive documentation and quality assurance

Concept Laser GmbH
An der Zeil 8
D-96215 Lichtenfels
Germany
Phone: +49 9571 1679 – 0
On the web: www.concept-laser.de

Press Officer:
Daniel Hund
Phone: +49 9571 1679 – 251
E-mail: d.hund@concept-laser.de

Fresdental Innovación y Manufacturas S.L.
Calle Mayor, 41, 43, 45, 47
E-03749 Jesús Pobre (Alicante)
Spain
Phone: +34 965 756 616
E-mail: info@fresdental.es
On the web: www.fresdental.es

Keyword: LaserCUSING®
The LaserCUSING® process is used to create mechanically and thermally stable metallic components with high precision. Depending on the application, it can be used with stainless and tool steels, aluminum and titanium alloys, nickel-based superalloys, cobalt-chromium alloys or precious metals such as gold or silver alloys.

Procedures
With LaserCUSING®, finely pulverized metal is fused using a high-energy fiber laser. After cooling, the material solidifies. Component contour is achieved by directing the laser beam with a mirror deflection unit (scanner). Construction takes place layer by layer (with each layer measuring 15-150 microns) by lowering the bottom surface of the construction space, then applying and fusing more powder.

Concept Laser systems stand out due to their stochastic control of the slice segments (also referred to as “islands”), which are processed successively. The patented process significantly reduces tension during the manufacture of very large components.

Concept Laser Overview
Concept Laser GmbH is based in Lichtenfels, Germany. Since its founding in 2000, it has been a leading innovator in the field of laser melting with the patented LaserCUSING® technology across many industries.

The term LaserCUSING®, a combination of the C from CONCEPT Laser and the word FUSING (to fully melt), describes the technology: the fusing process generates components layer by layer using 3D CAD data.

The method allows the production of complex component geometries without tools to create parts that are difficult or even impossible to achieve through conventional manufacturing.

With the LaserCUSING® process, conformal cooling can be used to create tool inserts as well as direct components for the jewelry, medical, dental, automotive and aerospace industries. This applies to prototypes and series parts.

The company offers both standard systems and custom concepts for metal laser melting. With Concept Laser, full-service as an option means that customers can either purchase their own metal laser melting systems or rely directly on service and development services.

Laser machining systems from Concept Laser process powder materials made from stainless steel, hot work tool steels, cobalt-chromium alloy, nickel-base alloy as well as reactive powder materials such as aluminum and titanium alloys. Precious metals such as gold or silver alloys for jewelry making are also an option.

LaserCUSING® offers new perspectives in terms of cost and speed for efficient product development in industries such as:

  • Medical and dental technology
  • Aeronautics and space industry
  • Tool and mold construction
  • Automotive and racing
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Jewelry

The systems reduce development time and costs substantially while offering much greater flexibility in product development.

The high quality standards, level of experience and successful track record of Concept Laser guarantee reliable and cost-effective solutions with proven performance in daily production, with a particular focus on unit cost reductions.

The Art of LaserCUSING® by Concept Laser
Ideas for laser melting with metals in the following areas of application: automotive and motorsport, aerospace, medical and dental technology, tool and mold construction and machine engineering.

 

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