Tuesday, 23 April, 2024

01 Dec 2002 | Australasian Dental Practice

news > Spectrum > Page 14

Australian dental laboratory pioneers orthodontic laser welding

Australian Orthodontic Laboratories believes the time is right to expand its operations with the introduction of specialised orthodontic appliances completely joined by laser welding under the brand name of LaserTek.

"The introduction of laser welding of orthodontic appliances has been a long process," explains AOL proprietor Mr Terence Whitty. "We have been researching laser welding in orthodontics and other areas for over five years and watched the market carefully. The main reason for the slow uptake has been the high price of the technology. Fortunately, this is changing."

Mr Whitty believes the time is right to invest in the technology which has been in use in Europe for some time, primarily due to the prohibition of certain types of solders for dental use. However, it is only now being introduced in the United States.

According to Mr Whitty, the laser is ideal for appliance manufacture because it produces a sharp, focused light beam that melts a very small area of metal. The benefit of this technology is that very little heat is generated at the weld point, allowing users to easily weld 0.25 to 1.0mm away from the most complicated and intricate component parts without damaging heat sensitive materials. The operator views the appliance through a stereo-microscope which allows parts to be precisely aligned and welded at the correct location.

The new laser installed at Australian Orthodontic Laboratories is a Dentaurum Pulsed Nd:YAG laser welding system.

"This is really a state of the art machine, and it all works at the speed of light!" says Mr Whitty.

"Previously, we used precision soldering techniques to fabricate appliances, but this comes with a high price. The structural integrity of the metal is always damaged due to the high heat used. Even with heat shields, there is always some degree of damage and this often leads to appliance failure. We compensated for this in using certain design features but this made the appliances bulky. With a Laser-welded appliance, this is a thing of the past."

Mr Whitty says the laser welded appliances can be up to 300% stronger than soldered appliances and alleviate new concerns on health issues relating to the use of solders in the mouth.

"We have gone back and redesigned every appliance we make from the ground up. In all cases, we have found the new designs far superior to what we were previously producing. Also, we can now produce hybrid appliances that we once only dreamed of and are super efficient.

"We have seen a trend toward fixed developmental appliances because the main advantage over the removable appliance is not needing to rely on patient co-operation. The results are also usually more rapid. However, we have also applied laser welding technology to removable appliances and this has improved their reliability immensely. We can deal with the infrequent issue of wire breakages immediately.

"Even though it is early days, the initial response has been enormously positive. We will do our formal launch early in the new year and this will coincide with the new web site (the most comprehensive site on laser welding in dentistry available), an information CD-ROM and the usual advertising in magazines and the like."

Mr Whitty loves technology and has won many awards for his imaginative approach to compiling multimedia titles, including an award at the 15th International Dental Film Festival in Paris.

"This is a very exciting time for all of us involved in the project. I think everyone who sees this will be very impressed."





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