Critical plastic parts made and supplied by Proto Labs' rapid injection moulding service Protomold, have helped to accelerate the time-to-market of a new, drill-less dental treatment. The innovative system, developed by DMG Dental, means that a trip to the dentist, dreaded by many, could soon be a much more pleasant experience.
For many people, the high-pitched whir of a dentist's drill is sufficiently chilling that they would prefer to take chances with their oral hygiene than book an appointment for a routine check-up. A brand-new device created by DMG Dental may just convince them otherwise.
Until now, the only way to treat decay between the teeth was by drilling to reach the cavity and allow filling – this approach almost always leads to the loss of a substantial amount of perfectly healthy tooth. However, DMG Dental, with its award-winning new Icon system achieves the same result without the use of a drill. The success of this product is based upon the application of plastic inter-dental wedges to separate teeth that are very close-set.
"The challenge was to realise a universal standard wedge that could separate all types of teeth adequately," says Herr Steffen Effenberger, head of technical development at DMG. "We started by changing the geometry, creating a trapezoidal shape in cross section. Initially we used our own 3D printer to create about 10 different prototypes. However, for the field tests these were unsuitable because they have very different material properties. Then, a colleague discovered another option at a trade show: Protomold® the rapid injection moulding service from Proto Labs. All we needed to do was upload our 3D CAD model to the Protomold website and within a day we had an actual production quote in our hand."
The team at DMG was more t
han surprised by the speed and reliability it experienced with Proto Labs' service. Previously, the company had been forced to accept prototyping lead-times of more than 8 weeks. But with Proto Labs this went down to 2-3 weeks from initial contact to receiving finished parts.
So how does Icon work? Well, once the inter-dental wedge has separated the teeth, the surface of the unhealthy tooth can be pre-treated with a special gel. The area is then dried with alcohol before the Icon resin is applied using a plastic syringe to penetrate the decay, seal the pores and harden.
"We have found a partner in Proto Labs, who provides high reliability in order processing," concludes Herr Effenberger. "Every deadline was met! In fact, often, the promised 24 hours from uploading the 3D model was much reduced and the manufacturability advice that we received for the realisation of our models was very good. For this reason, we have used the Protomold process for improvements to our syringe applicator. Whenever time is short and we need real parts, we rely on Proto Labs as a partner to develop products faster."