NC expertise helps partner get innovative dental device to trials

Kerber Applied Research Inc. (KAR) is known for helping other companies with their existing electronic projects, providing system engineering, design guidance and creating prototypes from conceptual ideas through finalized products.

However, the Hamilton, Ont.-based KAR also focuses on their own original inventions for various markets. They sought the expertise of the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) for one such prototype for the dental industry.

Vacubright is an innovative dental tool, with LED lighting to increase visibility for dental professionals –providing increased visibility in the oral cavity with a bendable, hand-held device, instead of only using the overhead lamp, used by most dentists and hygienists.

“Our challenge was to have a design 3D printed for testing purposes for dentists and hygienists,” says KAR president Tom Kerber, adding that sterilization of the prototype for the trials was an absolute must, given the requirements of the coronavirus pandemic; there was also a limited quantity of LED devices that could be made during the trial period.

Kerber needed to have 20 sets 3D printed using high temperature, high-quality plastic pieces for his trial with dental professionals.

“I tried to 3D print at my facility with good success with printing low temperature plastics, but multiple failures printing with higher temperature plastics, such as nylon,” explains Kerber. “The plastic needed to pass through the autoclave disinfection dental appliance with no deformation in the disinfection process.”

Kerber then approached Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division to leverage its design capabilities and knowledge of injection molding, says Brock Husak, interim research laboratory technologist with WAMIC. “It turned out to be a tricky project considering the requirement needed to make a part injection molded while maintaining important geometry found in the original model.”

The WAMIC team used CAD-based software to design the device for injection molding, keeping in mind draft angles, wall thickness, ribbing for added strength, and geometry that is moldable, explains Husak.

After a number of testing and design corrections by the research engineers, in the end, the prototype worked flawlessly, says Kerber.

“I retested the parts under the high temperature disinfection process, extending the normal one-hour dissention time to 12 hours and there was no deformity of the plastic,” he says, adding he’s now ready to approach the dentists who have expressed an interest to evaluate the new dental device.

He says both dentists and hygienists have told him this “revolutionary light device will offer more depth of light to see in the oral cavity,” making their job easier.

“It would not have been possible for me to run the initial trials without a very nice-looking plastic part that can withstand the disinfection process,” notes Kerber.

KAR has also worked with the Research & Innovation division’s Business & Commercialization Solutions team to obtain market research about the dental industry, developing a website and research into the best channel for launching their product.

This project was made possible through the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), which provides up to 20 hours of access to the equipment, facilities, and expertise of a Technology Access Centre (TAC) to solve a specific business or technical challenge.

This is one example of the types of technical services offered by the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre. To discover other resources and capabilities, visit the website.