Robots Help My Son’s Smile

dscf0371.jpgRobots shaped the wires used on the braces for my 11-year-old son, Jake, and 3D imaging captured the necessary data for the digital model. According to the Web site for this technology, the job can’t be done by hand. I’ve known for some time that robots touch our everyday lives, but this is the most personal example I’ve ever had. 

Jake has been walking around with a pretty mellow attitude since getting his braces. He isn’t moping, but he isn’t the same. He got the upper wires on Friday, April 27, and gets the lower ones this coming Friday. The good thing is that he won’t wear these braces as long as he would traditional ones, and the technique eliminates uncomfortable adjustments. He should be done several months faster than the “old fashioned” way, with no tightening of the wires and no rubber bands. He may not realize it, but he’s very lucky, don’t you think?

According to the Web site for SureSmile (, they use “memory wires” that the robot bends using very high heat. When the braces are placed on the teeth, body temperature activates the metal which then wants to return to the shape (i.e. prescription) designed by the robot.

I can’t tell whose robot or imaging technology is part of the process, but they say the process couldn’t be done by hand due to the extreme temperatures and digital modeling required.  Let me know if you have information that sheds more light on the robots and imaging used for SureSmile braces.

– posted April 29, 2007, by Brian Huse, RIA (


2 Responses to Robots Help My Son’s Smile

  1. brianhuse says:

    I want to give special thanks to Mark Varberg, SureSmile Account Executive, who found this posting from a Google search and contacted me with some interesting feedback. For instance, he told me that doctors are able to treat more patients in less time because there are fewer follow ups for adjustments, which means they benefit from improved capacity. Sound familiar? Faster time to market and increased throughput are of course some of the many selling benefits associated with robotics.

    However, in this case, the faster throughput isn’t really a function of robotics. There just is no other way to achieve the accuracy needed to bend the wires. Efficiency comes from another angle.

    “A doctor bending wires by hand can’t tell if he’s putting one or two degrees of torque on a wire, whereas the robot is very accurate,” explained Mark. He went on to say that it is the 3D modeling which improves efficiency. According to Mark, “The orthodontist can treat the whole case before (they bend a wire). Traditional braces are reactive, and that’s why treatment goes so long.”

    So we have another interesting similarity: In the robotics sector, simulation does the same thing (allows you to fine-tune a process before bolting any equipment to the factory floor).

    Mark helped me understand the advantages and benefits of the SureSmile technique (up to 50% faster treatment time, more accurate, less hassle), the cost factors (these vary, but can it can be $400 to $500 more than traditional braces), and some other considerations that can come into play (occasions when rubber bands or springs are needed, etc.).

    SureSmile is a fairly new company with headquarters in Berlin, Germany and Dallas, Texas. Since he’s not from the engineering side, Mark couldn’t say for sure what robot they use, but it sounds like a Staubli. (He said the robot is made in France and some other things that made me think this.)

    It turns out that his daughter is in the last stages of treatment with SureSmile braces even as my son begins his. She is very excited because she will be done sooner than most kids who start when she did and my boy will enjoy the same benefit. Plus, fewer trips to the orthodontist. It’s not all peaches and cream (try helping a frustrated 11-year-old floss for the first time with braces), but at least I know a lot more about how this new-fangled process works. I’m sure he’d be happy to talk to you, too. Here’s his contact info:

    Mark Varberg
    Account Executive-Midwest
    612.760.0877 Direct
    612.465.2440 Fax

    Please mention how/where you heard about him..!

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