Robotic jaws give dentists something to chew on
By Darren Quick
July 2, 2009
In news that might be a little worrying when coupled with our recent story of the flesh-eating robotic clock, UK researchers have developed a Chewing Robot. Thankfully the uses for the Chewing Robot are more benign - it has been developed to study the wear and tear on dental elements, such as fillings, crowns and bridges. By reproducing the motion and forces sustained by teeth within a human mouth, the robot has the potential to dramatically improve the process of developing and testing new dental materials.
A human jaw is a powerful and complex piece of natural machinery, allowing a person to chew in many different ways. The lower jaw and the teeth move with six degrees of freedom, but clinical trials examining the wear of human teeth are expensive and time-consuming. By the time a new material has been tested, it is often obsolete.
Recognizing that the Stewart-Gough platforms used in aircraft simulators provide the same six degrees of freedom, Dr Kazem Alemzadeh, Senior Lecturer in the University of Bristol's Department of Mechanical Engineering proposed the Chewing Robot concept based on just such a platform. Daniel Raabe, a PhD student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, then set about designing and developing the Chewing Robot concept.
Daniel Raabe said: "By reproducing natural bite forces and movements, the Chewing Robot can help improve and accelerate the process of developing new dental restorative materials that may someday be found in a person's mouth."
Anyone wanting to get an eyeful of this mouthful can check out the Chewing Robot concept at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, which runs until the 4th of July at the Royal Society in London.