Fintek introduces the EPAG-Smart T and outlines how it can provide dental labs with a quick return on investment.
An incredible amount of skill and time is required to produce dental frameworks, clasps and implants.
Technicians in dental laboratories are always seeking to refine the production processes involved. They are especially looking to automation to improve quality, consistency and delivery times.
The dental finishing problem
Taking CoCr frameworks as an example, finishing alone can take seven stages before the framework is ready.
Abrasive and blasting stages remove the bulk of the casting residues and roughness. Buffing, pre-polishing and electropolishing take the framework to a near complete finish. Final post-polishing and cleaning makes the framework ready to use.
Frameworks with complex geometries have surfaces that are hard to reach effectively with power tools.
Conventional electropolishing units also struggle to reach all surfaces evenly. It is time-consuming and costly work that removes a skilled technician from performing other tasks.
Freeing technician time for other skilled tasks, keeping the cost of RPDs affordable and improving quality, are key drivers for dental laboratories. Labs are seeking to automate as much of the workflow as possible.
Surface finishing innovators OTEC Präzisionsfinish GmbH saw that an improved electropolishing process would produce a more even surface finish. And also replace several stages of the finishing cycle.
Having already developed the EPAG Smart, a compact table-top electropolishing unit for precious metal jewellery manufacturers, OTEC realised there is a synergy in the making of fine filigree pieces with that of precision dental frameworks and clasps.
Both are cast or printed, both have complex geometries. And both require skill and time to accomplish a high quality finish without compromising tolerances.
Improving the dental electropolishing process
Processing dental frameworks in conventional electropolishing units improves the surface finish of frames considerably – providing hand buffing and pre-polishing are performed beforehand.
Even then, surfaces often have an uneven finished with outer areas treated more and some depth areas missed.
The fine clamps often receive too strong abrasion, making them thinner and weaker. And the process does not achieve a gloss finish in the palate region.
To understand why this happens we need to look at the electropolishing process.
Traditional units apply a voltage to a cathode and anode placed in an electrolyte. The framework attaches to the positive anode. The electrochemical reaction dissolves ions out of the CoCr framework and they migrate to the cathode.
Problems arise because the ions want to take the path of least resistance. And this leads to greater material removal at the tips.
Also, shielding effects in complex areas, known as Faraday’s Cage, further reduces finishing effectiveness in these areas.
The new EPAG-Smart T, fine-tuned for dental laboratories, overcomes these problems. It introduces a solid in the electrolyte and adding controlled rotation of the framework through it.
The solid slows down the reaction to provide process stability and allow ion exchange.
Shielding effects significantly reduce due to the flow created around the framework. When the solid reaches ion saturation it needs changing, along with the electrolyte, to maintain quality.
Real world dental lab testing
To put the EPAG-Smart T to the test, OTEC teamed with leading German dental laboratory, Flussfisch.
Flussfisch was seeking to automate the manufacture of dental frameworks, implants and more.
A benefit of the new unit to Flussfisch is its compact size. As well as its need only for a standard electrical socket. This makes it easy to position on any lab table-top. However, they had to prove it could save time without compromising quality.
Feedback from expert testing by Flussfisch enabled OTEC to tailor the electropolishing process. It now replaces three of the seven finishing stages – buffing, pre-polish and electropolishing.
Significantly, this has reduced manual effort by over 50%! Whilst also producing a better overall finish, including in the harder to reach areas.
Minimal, material removal, especially in the vital clasp areas, ensured they did not become too thin or weakened.
Flussfisch also found other advantages over technologies they had tested where processing took three times longer and the media lifetime was artificially limited, pushing up the costs. The lab discovered mounting methods in competitor offerings increased the risk of framework damage.
Flussfisch found that the EPAG-Smart T suffered none of these problems.
It successfully finished frameworks in just 20 minutes in a consistent and repeatable process.
The electrolyte/solid media lifetime being determined by consumption rather than an artificial limit also helped to reduce costs further. A superior mounting method minimised the likelihood of product damage.
At the time of testing, with manual polishing costing €11 per part and the new EPAG-Smart T process reducing this to €1 per part, labs can achieve ROI in less than a year when producing around five RPDs per day.
Also the dental technician can work on more valuable and more enjoyable tasks. This increases lab productivity.
With an easy-to-use interface for custom process storage and easy recall, LAN connectivity and extending control to a mobile phone app so labs can manage multiple units easily, it all makes the EPAG-Smart T a compelling improvement to finishing productivity.
Other dental parts such as crowns made from metal can also benefit from time and cost savings.
It speaks for itself – Flussfisch GmbH is now a distributor for the unit in Germany.
For dental labs, hospitals and larger single-site dentistry practices in Britain, UK surface finishing experts, Fintek is the exclusive distributor of the EPAG-Smart T.
Fintek is happy to provide demonstrations to interested labs. Book yours now +44 (0)1706 283 927.