Like any sector that implements automated inspection, 3D-CT application in the dental and medical industries ensures product uniformity, enables trend identification, and facilitates high-volume throughput.
Engineers and manufacturers within dental and medical industries are observing how 3D-CT scanning and its associated automation addresses the drawbacks of optical scanning. They are witnessing firsthand the revolutionary developments that are slowly eradicating manual techniques such as the pouring of stone molds.
Over the years, dentists have shifted from primarily taking impressions and often making molds by hand to digitally scanning the mouth and 3D-printing parts. In some states, a new dental crown can go through impressioning and be printed and fitted in just one day. Twenty years ago, it was a two-week process, with the impression being taken, the patient going home, and waiting two to three weeks for their crown to be fitted.
Using modern technology whole operations can be digitally managed. Customers are happier, and costs are lower.
Digitally scanning the mouth using an Intraoral Scanner makes a point cloud—a set of data points in space—in a patient’s mouth that measures hundreds of thousands, if not millions of points. Intraoral scanners currently retail at between $14,000 and $27,000. Within a couple of minutes, a dentist has a Standard Triangle Language (STL) file that can be sent directly to the lab. Compatible with 3D-printing, the STL file can be used to modify the criteria of the part. But Intraoral scanners are not without their drawbacks.
Intraoral scanning’s success is heavily reliant on encouraging blood flow away from the gums surface so that the gums retreat and expose tooth geometry where it meets the gums. The window of opportunity to Intraoral scan before the blood begins to flow back to the gums is small. Furthermore, because the intraoral scanner is manually manipulated by hand, repeatability is difficult to achieve and requires a skilled dentist to operate the scanner effectively, despite efforts to address these challenges in the scanner’s software. By comparison, taking an impression costs a dentist a couple of dollars and requires no expertise; in fact, many dental impressions are taken by consumers themselves with no prior experience in taking their own impression. Dental impressions can then be sent to a lab where crowns, dentures, or retainers can be made at speed and of high-quality.
As we know, working digitally speeds up processes, and speed is of the essence. Design engineers and manufacturers of CT machines know this. They are working around the clock to lower scan time by updating manipulators that rotate components during scanning. They are modernizing equipment, such as renewing deck detector machinery to handle countless volumes at a greater rate of speed. And speed is proportional to maximizing value from your scanner.
The faster you can push scans through, the fewer scanners you need to purchase to process your desired volume.
The key to speed is automation. There is still a high amount of human interaction in current processes. Where stone molds are still used in dentistry to create a part, there can sometimes be as many as five people that touch the data—from receiving an impression to creating a denture or replacement tooth.
As we continue to see technology-led improvements to dental scanning accuracy, dentists will spend less time reworking or modifying fittings—such as crowns—on site. Less manual intervention by dentists will mean shorter appointments, meaning they can see a greater number of patients. More patients generate more revenue to fund automated 3D-CT solutions to time, speed, and labor-based challenges.
We can link the industry’s need for ongoing automation to Industry 4.0—it is, in essence, automation of conventional manufacturing and industrial processes. Across the dental and medical sector, Industry 4.0 it is a term that comprises large data aggregation, equipping the production line in all its aspects and various phases with a variety of sensors, whether they be X-ray, optical, or mechanical measurement. Using modern, smart technology, we can obtain critical metrics from a process in real time, both horizontally—through every aspect of the process—vertically, and up to an analytical level.
That data is used to monitor the manufacturing line’s health, the product’s condition, and most importantly, to identify positive and negative production trends. Corrective, timely action can then be taken to steer the process back within proper limits.
Whether or not Industry 4.0 as a term fades over the next few years, what will remain true across most industries is the ongoing desire to monitor and improve processes. How fast those at various organizational levels can improve their processes will depend on budget, their desire to introduce new hardware and software, and their adeptness in training people to use it.
It is fair to say that Industry 4.0 and what it stands for organically highlights the benefits of 3D-CT. Utilizing advanced intelligence found within sophisticated machinery means that engineers and manufacturers can now use data obtained from failure analysis CT reporting to find flaws in processes and products, isolate manufacturing defects, and ensure manufacturing quality. The technology behind the automation of practices enables data collection from each of these steps within the process, whether related to sourcing raw material, fabrication, quality assurance, or the after-sale.
When we use automated inspection as an enabler to superior manufacturing, it drives quality.
Crucial to reaping the full benefit of sophisticated inspection will be analyzing data, feeding back, making changes, analyzing data again, and so on. It is analogous to Moore’s law—the principle that computers’ speed and capability can be expected to double every two years due to increases in the number of transistors a microchip can contain. As process adaptations and improvements drive greater throughput, dental or medical consumers’ costs that include clinics and hospitals are reduced.
Compared to that of the aerospace industry, production cycle times for dental are long enough that 3D-CT technologies resolve many of the speed-based challenges. For instance, some industry segments in aerospace and automotive produce a part every 15 seconds. Current technology does not enable us to inspect a part within that time frame. Dental productions are such that an impression needs only to be studied every five minutes, making it easier for the current level of technological sophistication to meet production cycle times. The future will see us inspecting not in minutes, but seconds.
Both hardware and software capabilities are improving, and any improvement to how instructional data is conveyed will benefit any scanning-led detection and measurement process. A detector panel is made up of pixels; the more pixels, the more precise the image. When we inspect, detect, and measure with 3D-CT, we see a granular level of detail with a wide-ranging difference. Contrast is particularly relevant when you are trying to distinguish between two materials that are similar in density.
As we already know, automation reduces labor costs by saving time. Artificial Intelligence (AI)—often referred to as Machine Learning—is used to inspect a part’s physical parameters, and automatic loading means there is no feed-factor to consider. Utilizing Machine Learning means processes are optimized, and there is no need to rely on the human eye for subjective judgment. Three-dimensional Computed Tomography is governed by software that is programmed with fixed design parameters. Inspection accepts or rejects a part based on rules that can be relaxed or tightened as the case may dictate. The beauty is that machines do not have bad days; they do not miss things because of shop-floor distractions. Assuming that the system is well maintained, it will continue to perform with accuracy and consistency.
So why is process optimization so important for buyers of CT?
Process optimization enables first-rate quality detection and facilitates improvements to processes and products.
It is the discipline of adjusting processes to achieve greater quality inspection. Automated inspection enables manufacturers to deliver quality precision scanning and consequently deliver consistently reliable products. Real-time feedback supports process optimization, and Industry 4.0 will optimize upstream processes by providing prescriptive analytics. Process optimization is regarded as a powerful tool used in industrial decision-making that helps to minimize costs and maximize efficiency.
In every industry, including dental, precision scanning needs to meet its industry-specific quality criteria. This statement is even more true for the medical industry, especially where manufacturers have a larger volume of critical components.
A leading manufacturer in dental once explained that even a slight change in where a tooth sits within the mouth could cause an individual’s bite to change.
They have seen cases where a tooth is slightly misaligned or sits too high or low, and this can cause problems through the neck and even into a patient’s back. Precision scanning ensures close-to-perfect impressions, confirming that they match how a patient’s teeth should be sitting for optimum comfort and functionality.
A small minority of dentists already use medical CT scanners to scan patients’ jaws. This process determines how best to complete oral surgery and place implants into the jawbone. Medical CT imaging before a procedure shows where a patient’s sinus-cavities are, to prevent puncturing sinuses. Dentists devise a drill-map for where in the jawbone the implant should be placed. Currently, both the dental and medical industries have a range of new technology at their fingertips for adoption.
The VedaCT, best-in-class CT imaging, revolutionizes automated inspection, empowering you to make the right choices for your design and its mechanisms, giving you back control, and delivering confidence.
It observes in machinery what science observes in its analysis of microparticles, capably high-resolution scanning both external and internal surfaces using Non-destructive Testing (NDT).
The VedaCT takes advantage of a granite base. Known for the effective absorption of vibrations, the granite foundation enables precision scanning that delivers a comprehensive analysis of the constituent of any material, supporting design innovators across a multitude of industries. The machine’s 400 mm diameter turntable offers 360-degree image processing, commendably examining every element of a scannable component.
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