A metal laser sintering system may be coming soon to a dental office near you. Dental applications for rapid manufacturing equipment are exploding. Up to 500 bridges and crowns can be manufactured in a day in a single build on an EOS direct metal laser sintering system. EOS expects to ship 20 machines for dental applications in the next 18 months. So far, Europe is ahead in implementing the technology, with about 25 installed machines and only three in the United States. The metal used is a cobalt chrome alloy.
Dental implants traditionally have been made out of metal through a time-consuming casting process. A technician can produce about 20 dental frames per day. In the new approach, a dental technician can concentrate on post-processing the metal structure and its aesthetic upgrade: ceramic veneering.
The technology will also come into play for other types of implants, Martin Bullemer, the EOS account specialist for medical, told me today in a walk through the EOS stand at Rapid 2009 in Schaumburg, IL. The best fit will be for custom implants for spines. Cobalt chrome is widely used for knee and hip replacements, but they are mass-produced stock sizes.