Computer-aided design and manufacture of hyrax devices: Can we really go digital?
The aim of this pilot study was to illustrate the feasibility of a new digital procedure to fabricate metallic orthodontic appliances. Hyrax appliances for rapid palatal expansion were produced for 3 patients using a CAD/CAM procedure without physical impressions or printed models. The work flow consisted of intraoral scanning, digital design with incorporation of a scanned prefabricated expansion screw, direct 3-dimensional metal printing via laser melting, welding of an expansion screw, insertion, and finally activation in the patients’ mouths. Finite element analyses of the actual hyrax appliances were performed to ensure that the printable material used in combination with the chosen design would withstand the stress generated during activation. The results of these analyses were positive. The clinical results showed that this procedure is an efficient and viable digital way for constructing metallic orthodontic appliances. The flexibility of the digital appliance design, together with the biocompatibility and strength of the chosen material, offers a huge potential for more advanced appliance design.