Multi-material laser densification (MMLD) of dental restorations: Process optimization and properties evaluation

Date of Completion

January 2005


Engineering, Biomedical|Engineering, Metallurgy|Engineering, Materials Science




This Ph.D. thesis proposes to investigate the feasibility of laser-assisted dental restoration and to develop a fundamental understanding of the interaction between laser beam and dental materials. Traditional dental restorations are produced by the porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) process, in which a dental restoration is cast from a metallic alloy and then coated with dental porcelains by multiple furnace-firing processes. PFM method is labor-intensive and hence very expensive. In order to fabricate dental restoration units faster and more cost-effectively, the Solid Freeform Fabrication (SFF) technique has been employed in this study. In particular, a Multi-Material Laser Densification (MMLD) process has been investigated for its potential to fabricate artificial teeth automatically from 3-D computer dental tooth files. ^ Based on the principle of SFF, the MMLD process utilizes a micro-extruder system to deliver commercial dental alloy and porcelain slurry in a computer-controlled pattern line by line and layer by layer. Instead of firing the artificial tooth/teeth in a furnace, the extruded dental materials are laser scanned to convert the loose powder to a fully dense body. Different laser densification parameters including the densification temperature, laser output power, laser beam size, line dimension, ratio of the beam size to line width, beam scanning rate, processing atmosphere and pressure, dental powder state (powder bed or slurry), powder particle size, etc. have been used to evaluate their effects on the microstructures and properties of the laser densified dental body, and hence to optimize MMLD conditions. Furthermore, laser-scanning induced phase transformations in dental porcelains have been studied because the transformations have great impact on coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) of dental porcelains, which should match that of dental alloy substrate. Since a single dental material line delivered by the MMLD system functions as a “construction block” in the building of a dental restoration unit, the geometry changes of single and multiple porcelain lines before and after laser densification are studied to minimize porosity and improve surface quality. It is concluded that dental restoration by MMLD is achievable through proper MMLD conditions. ^