Fraser Dear is AILU's 2008 Young Laser Engineer in recognition of his successful development of fine laser machining techniques in zirconia for the manufacture of tooth crowns and bridges for dental restorations.
Fraser's work has been carried out at Heriot-Watt University with support from EPSRC and Renishaw dental division. He was nominated for the Prize by Professor Duncan Hand and Nick Weston, General Manager of Renishaw, Edinburgh. The application is a perfect example of 'mass customisation' where every part manufactured is different. As a result, moulding or extrusion techniques commonly used with ceramics cannot be used; instead it has to date been necessary to use a (very slow) diamond grinding process. Fraser has succeeded in developing novel laser-based processes to carry out both high speed 'rough' processing and high-precision (but slower) fine machining.
Renishaw dental products division is examining the economics of introducing these laser processes on a commercial scale, replacing at least some of their current mechanical diamond grinding processes.