E-manufacturing brings a smile to many a face.

Position:Medical machining: laser sintering

Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), a layer manufacturing process, first originated as a method of rapid tooling and rapid prototyping. It has advanced via a multitude of innovations to be the key technology for e-Manufacturing, the fast and cost-effective direct production from electronic data. Sirona Dental Systems uses laser-sintering to manufacture customized series products out of metal. The firm has been producing dental prostheses in a special cobalt-chrome alloy, which has increased the efficiency of dental laboratories.

When Dr. Gunter Saliger goes to the dentist, he thinks about process optimization and materials development. And for a good reason: the physicist works in the CAD/CAM division at Sirona Dental Systems, one of the leading manufacturers in the field of dental technology. He is responsible for the production service infiniDent. The name represents a unique range of services offered in which Saliger and his team of eight assume the role of extended workbench for dental laboratories throughout Europe. Since 2004, with modern technology and special production facilities, they have been making crown copings and bridges out of ceramic materials such as zirconium oxide and aluminium oxide on behalf of dental laboratory technicians. The fact that, since summer of this year, infiniDent's fabrication center can now manufacture dental prostheses out of metal is tantamount to a mini-revolution.

This breakthrough has been made possible by a close collaboration with the German systems manufacturer EOS (Electro Optical Systems). The company, whose headquarters are located in Krailling in Bavaria, is the leading representative of laser-sintering technology. It delivers complete systems solutions to key industries such as medical technology, aerospace, and automotive. Originally, the EOS machines were implemented for rapid prototyping and rapid tooling in the context of development processes. Today, the trend is moving toward batch-sized optimized series production--e-Manufacturing. In the area of plastics, laser-sintering-based e-Manufacturing is very much an established term. In the manufacture of metal parts it is just beginning to gain a foothold as a replacement process--for example as a clean, efficient alternative to casting. And that is exactly the crucial point in the case of Sirona.

End of casting

While casting, with all its laborious pre- and post-processing, used to be the only relevant molding process for metal dental...

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