Recently, Dr. Robert Miller took a small group of Trailside Elementary students from Park City Utah, to see how Orthodontic Braces or brackets are made.  Traditionally brackets are cast like jewelry, however the precision and accuracy are limited.  Opal Orthodontics which is a subsidiary of Ultradent in West Jordan Utah now fabricates braces like watch parts, using Swiss watch micro-milling machines. Watch this close up video of a watch being constructed using extremely small and accurate parts.

swiss milling watch making

These students include Dr Miller’s son, Ronan, Wyatt B and Jake D, all from Trailside Elementary school in Park City Utah.

Trailside students watching how Braces are made

Trailside students watching how Braces are made

Colby R. Research engineer, speaks to Trialside Elementary kids

Colby R. Research engineer, speaks to Trialside Elementary kids

These students learned that braces are traditionally made by casting or molding metal, which is less accurate and not as strong as micro-milling a small bracket or brace from a solid piece of stainless steel as seen here.

Ronan Miller observes a freshly made orthodontic brace

Ronan Miller observes a freshly made orthodontic brace

These students got to actually observe close up, this swiss milling machine create a small bracket by a computer assisted drilling process.  Imagine a drill bit the diameter of a few strands of hair, spinning at thousands of rpm’s sculpting these small parts with precision and accuracy as outlined on the following video.

As you can see close up in the video the computer assisted milling and positioning allows fast and accurate production.  Not only braces, or brackets are made this way, but also many of the other devices used to move teeth such as the Esprit Class II overbite corrector, which is what Dr. Miller has assisted with.  This machine they observed, and seen in the video is in the Research and Development lab where many new parts are created and prototyped.

Colby R. Research engineer, speaks to Trialside Elementary kids

Colby R. Research engineer, speaks to Trialside Elementary kids

Speaking of computers, these students got to play with CAD/CAM software, and see how these braces or brackets are designed, prototyped, and fabricated.  This was probably the highlight of their day, since that was what they were most familiar with!  Dr. Miller shared a story about how he was involved in one of the first CAD/CAM designed orthodontic device (Flip Lock Herbst™)  developed in the early 1990’s using computer software very powerful at that time, but would be similar in capabilities as a modern day smart phone!  Colby let these kids each see how these designs can be spun and rotated to create a 3D feel, even on a 2D computer screen.  This enables the designer to see all sides and angles even prior to making a prototype model.

At the end of the day, the kids got to see the rapid prototype machine, and the highlight of the day was seeing the waterfall at the front entrance of the building.

Of course, one of the features of this field trip was the stream and waterfall at the front entrance of the Ultradent headquarters where the biggest smiles were observed!

At the end of the day, these students got to see the application of robots and computers to fabricate something they were all familiar with, braces!

Jake D, Ronan M, and Wyatt B smile after a visit to Ultradent and Opal Orthodontics

Jake D, Ronan M, and Wyatt B smile after a visit to Ultradent and Opal Orthodontics