According to an article in The Buffalo News, Great Lakes Orthodontics, Tonawanda, NY, recently installed new computer and drilling technology to create individualized splints.
Rather than outsourcing production to low-cost manufacturers, Great Lakes developed the automated process, which allows the same number of technicians to create more splints.
In the past, the devices were made by hand or machine, but the technological enhancement of the company’s splint production line has allowed Great Lakes faster production and more accurate fit to consumers’ mouths.
James R. Kunkemoeller, president and CEO of Great Lakes, said, “Clinical leaders are absolutely blown away that a company our size could do this kind of work. We think that because of the way this will set us aside in the marketplace, we’ll need more staff.”
The company invested more than $500,000 on software and hardware for the new computer-aided design and anticipates further expansion. The company’s director of research, Mark Lauren, developed the automated process that combines a 3D laser scanning product from Minolta with a “computer numeric control” machine that uses five rotating drill bits to precisely cut the acrylic-coated plastic mold, using specific instructions from the computer. That allows the same number of technicians to make more product.
“Using a computer to design things for people is hard. Variety is the most difficult aspect,” Lauren said. “We never really make the same one twice. We make a lot of them, but they’re all subtly different. And we can use the computer to account for those natural variations.”