A new dimension in dental fabrication – Stephen Norman – Private Implant prosthetics Manager at Sparkle Laboratory

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  Posted by: The Probe      18th March 2019

While 3D printing has been hailed as a disruptive technology, with applications ranging from the artistic to robotics, it actually has its root in early 1980s additive manufacturing. However, it is only recently that the technology has become mainstream, thanks to advances in accessibility and technique.

Being able to quickly and relatively cheaply go from concept to prototype to a finished piece is truly an exciting development. Doctors have been able to fabricate bespoke prostheses and implants as needed, such as creating a cranial implant from PEEK.[i]The benefits aren’t even limited to the terrestrial! Launching any payload into space is infamously costly due to the quantity of rocket fuel required. Previously, if for instance an astronaut on the International Space Station lost a tool while on a spacewalk, they would have to wait for a replacement to be sent, which could take months. That tool would take up precious space on the next resupply run – which can cost $43,180 per pound![ii]Armed with a 3D printer, astronauts can now potentially replace some parts and equipment themselves, making them far less dependent on resupply than in the past.[iii]

Key advantages

Speed and flexibility. From prototype to finished product, 3D printing can streamline fabrications. It is not unknown for those with access to 3D printers to quickly throw together a simple design that fulfils a specific need on the spur of the moment. Rapid prototyping enables 3D printers to produce everything from orthodontic appliances to maxillofacial prostheses.[iv]

Minimal waste. Traditionally, subtractive manufacturing techniques have been employed, which are inherently more wasteful of component materials by their very nature.[v]Quite simply, when building up the operator can use just the material required by the design, baring a few small excesses that may need to be sanded or washed off. This is markedly in contrast to subtractive methods where excess material must be removed from the construct.

Dental applications

As in so many areas, dentistry is now benefiting from 3D printing too. For instance, rapid prototyping methods can produce accurate anatomical models from scans of an individual. These can greatly aid oral surgeons, as rather than only having visual information prior to an operation, that can now be augmented with tactile replicas of the patient’s physiology to help plan the procedure. Another usage for such facsimiles is as a learning aid for dental students, or to illustrate a point to a patient.[vi]

3D printing is contingent on Computer Aided Design (CAD). CAD allows for complex three-dimensional objects to be modelled digitally. This can be done from scratch, however, many dental practices already have access to volumetric data, captured by CBCT machines and the like. This data can be fed directly into certain programs, enabling the swift creation of a highly accurate digital model of the region scanned. Once successfully imported and adjusted, this data can be used for diagnostic purposes. However, when combined with 3D printing this allows for the creation of bespoke implants and surgical guides.[vii]But just because a computer is involved doesn’t mean everything is automatically done for you. While much of the process is automated, a skilled CAD operator is still required.

The advances and increasing availability of these two synergistic technologies benefit dentists, who can not only gain valuable diagnostic information from CBCT scans but also use the data to have surgical guides and prostheses produced to exacting specifications.

Selective laser sintering

3D printing isn’t just restricted to plastics and epoxies, alloys can be used too. Porous titanium implants can be 3D printed by using a high-powered laser to fuse the metal particles on a powder bed, layer by layer.[viii]However, to make full use of polymers and metals requires equipment beyond the type of additive 3D printers found in the homes of enthusiasts. For these materials technologies like selective laser sintering (SLS) are required, which is currently prohibitively expensive and dangerous outside of specialist hands, due to the risk of dust inhalation or even an explosion.[ix]Directly printing in metal can require substantial post-processing before the piece(s) are suitable for clinical use.[x]

It should be noted that ceramics, which see widespread use in dentistry, cannot be printed using any existing methods, so there are still some limitations to what 3D printers can produce.

A skilled laboratory

As exciting as the prospects of 3D printing are, the cost and expertise required to make proper use of the technology can be prohibitive – especially if you require certain materials like metals to be used. 

Sparkle Dental Labs is a full service in-house laboratory offering reasonable prices and an efficient turn around. It is well equipped to offer 3D printing, laser sintering and milling – being the very first dental lab in the UK to use both the Renishaw AM250 Laser Sintering Machine and DryLyte Chrome Polishing System. Whatever your practice needs, our technicians are ready, willing and able.

3D printing is an exciting technological addition to dentistry, bringing a flexible and speedy means of production to the field. From prosthetics to treatment planning there are already many applications for 3D printing, it is sure to be part of dentistry’s future – one you can take advantage of today.

 

For any additional information please call 0800 138 6255 or email customerservice@sparkledentallabs.comor visit:

www.sparkledentallabs.com

 

References

[i]Honigmann P., Sharma N., Okolo B., Popp U., Msallem B, Thieringer F. Patient-specific surgical implants made of 3d printed PEEK: material, technology, and scope of surgical application. BioMed Research International.  2018; 2018: 4520636. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5884234/Accessed November 30, 2018.

[ii]Kramer S. It still costs a staggering amount of money to launch stuff into space. Business Insider UK. July 20, 2016. http://uk.businessinsider.com/spacex-rocket-cargo-price-by-weight-2016-6Accessed November 30, 2018.

[iii]Prater T., Bean Q., Beshears R., Rolin T., Werkheiser N., Ordonez E., Ryan R., Ledbetter III F.  Summary report on phase I results from the 3D Printing in Zero G technology demonstration mission, volume I. NASA Technical Publication. 2016.https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20160008972.pdfAccessed November 30, 2018

[iv]Nayar S., Bhuminathan S., Bhat W. Rapid prototyping and stereolithography in dentistry.  Journal of Pharmacy & Bioallied Sciences.2015; 7(Suppl. 1): 216-219. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4439675/Accessed November 29, 2018.

[v]Prasad S., Kader N., Sujatha G., Raj T., Patil S. 3D printing in dentistry. Journal of 3D Printing in Medicine.2018; 2(3): 89-91. https://www.futuremedicine.com/doi/full/10.2217/3dp-2018-0012Accessed November 29, 2018.

[vi]Zaharia C., Gabor A., Gavrilovici A., Stan A., Idorasi L., Sinescu C., NegruțiuM. Digital dentistry – 3d printing applications. Journal of Interdisciplinary Medicine. 2017; 2(1): 50-53. https://content.sciendo.com/abstract/journals/jim/2/1/article-p50.xmlAccessed November 30, 2018.

[vii]Dawood A., Marti B., Sauret-Jackson V. 3D printing in dentistry. British Dental Journal. 2015; 219(1): 521-529. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286612886_3D_printing_in_dentistryAccessed November 29, 2018.

[viii]Prasad S., Kader N., Sujatha G., Raj T., Patil S. 3D printing in dentistry. Journal of 3D Printing in Medicine.2018; 2(3): 89-91. https://www.futuremedicine.com/doi/full/10.2217/3dp-2018-0012Accessed November 29, 2018.

[ix]Prasad S., Kader N., Sujatha G., Raj T., Patil S. 3D printing in dentistry. Journal of 3D Printing in Medicine.2018; 2(3): 89-91. https://www.futuremedicine.com/doi/full/10.2217/3dp-2018-0012Accessed November 29, 2018.

[x]Dawood A., Marti B., Sauret-Jackson V. 3D printing in dentistry. British Dental Journal. 2015; 219(1): 521-529. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286612886_3D_printing_in_dentistryAccessed November 29, 2018.


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