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Issue 052 - Autumn 2008

Freeform fabrication of dental inlays by laser micro-sintering

Author: Peter Regenfuss, André Streek, Lars Hartwig, Matthias Horn, Sascha Klötzer, Robby Ebert and Horst Exner


At the present time two groups of materials are interesting for ceramic inlays: pure ceramics and material compounds consisting of an inorganic filler and an organic binder. Pure ceramic specimens are usually produced in dental laboratories. Special CNC equipment has been available for several years, which allows the cutting and grinding of industrial preforms according to a scan of the cavity and its dental environment or according to a replica imprint of it. The principal idea of such systems is that the process can be carried out by the dentists themselves. However, not only do many dentists prefer to spend their time practising their expertise (rather than operating a CNC machine) but the grinding or cutting tips of these machines are subject to constant and gradual wear.

For these reasons the idea to produce ceramic inlays with a freeform technology was brought to the attention of Laserinstitut Mittelsachsen e.V. by an interdisciplinary team comprising a dentist and two economists. Shortly before this, the laser research group had produced metal micro-parts by a new modification of selective laser sintering. The resolution achieved, 30 μm, seemed just  appropriate for the requirements of dental fillings. Moreover, the fact that each dental defect has its unique shape makes the generation of dental inlays a prime case for the economic application of freeform technology. The big challenge was to transfer a technology that had previously only been successfully applied to generating micro parts from metal powder.

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