Aug 7, 2013

3M Spotlight: Technical Professional Service Lab

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3M Spotlight

This spring we launched the 3M ESPE Sof-Lex™ Spiral Finishing and Polishing Wheels for dental restorations, which are helping dentists make dental finishing and polishing easier. I took a moment to interview Mary Doruff, Senior Technical Service Specialist of the 3M ESPE Technical Professional Service Lab, regarding her insight about the use of field evaluations in the development of this exciting new 3M solution. Watch below!


Innovation is ingrained in our corporate culture. As I’ve discussed before and you’ve seen from the above video, we continuously seek ways to develop innovative products to retain competitive edge and fuel growth for our customers – and it has been recognized by our industry many times over.  The new  Sof-Lex Spiral  Wheels continue that mission of delivering innovative products that help our customers to be their best and grow their business.

Below, Dwight Jacobs shares the team’s experience of cross-pollinating technology among the many business units and corporate laboratories of 3M to drive collaboration and uniquely combining various 3M technologies to deliver innovative products for the dental industry.

Dwight Jacobs, Lead Specialist shares his story of searching for and developing a solution:

Like many new innovations, the idea for the Sof-Lex Spiral Wheels arose while working on a totally different technical problem.  While studying methods to improve the stain resistance of methacrylate-based direct restoratives and composite crown materials, Dr. Naimul Karim, Division Scientist, and I discovered that removing about 20 microns of the inhibition layer from those types of materials could dramatically reduce staining.Soflex_Dwight

I wanted our customers to be able to accomplish this quickly in a clinical setting, so I began searching for commercially available polishers with a large area “footprint” that would conform to irregular surfaces. I looked for a polishing system that could polish large areas quickly, which would be needed when polishing the entire exterior surface of a composite crown, and would be conformable to the crown surfaces, so as not to destroy purposely placed anatomy.

I searched dozens of competitive and 3M websites and found only two promising abrasive tool designs that might work in this application, both produced by 3M Abrasives Systems Division (“ASD”), but neither sold into dental operatory markets.

One type was an abrasive impregnated non-woven web and the other type was an abrasive impregnated, spiral-shaped, elastomeric wheel.

The spiral-shaped wheels had better reach into concavities and created less debris than the non-woven abrasives  So several grain sizes of the spiral-shaped wheels were ordered and evaluated for reducing staining on cured  direct restoratives and composite crowns.

Several grits of the spiral-shaped polishing wheels were readily available since they were invented by David E. Johnson, Rick Phil, and Dr. Yvonne Lund in the late 1990s, and have been sold for polishing metal in industrial and jewelry applications since about 2002.

David Johnson retained manufacturing responsibility for 3M ASD’s spiral-shaped abrasive line (Scotchbrite™ Radial Bristle Discs) and became an active member of the 3M ESPE New Product Introduction (“NPI”) team to launch a modified version of his invention. Unfortunately, David died on Feb. 15, 2013, before he could see the 3M ESPE version of his invention launched.

Initially I worked with these spiral-shaped polishers in stacks of 5, and later in stacks of 3, as that was the recommended way by 3M ASD to use these products. They worked surprisingly well for polishing composite crowns, with any number of plies.

After successfully polishing Filtek™ Supreme Ultra in the lab with a single ply of the spiral-shaped polishers it became apparent that these would be a great addition to our existing Sof-Lex™ Finishing and Polishing Disc product line.  An NPI team was formed and after considerable customer feedback we made modifications in the diameter, pigmentation, abrasive grain sizes, and hub design, and verified they were safe for clinical use.

Competitive testing and field evaluation of the final design and formulations have shown them to perform quite well, and I’m confident they will be well received by the dental industry.

Looking to learn more and discover how dentists are seeing success from the system? Visit the Sof-Lex Spiral Finishing and Polishing Wheels resource area to view additional videos, clinical case studies, technical data, instructions for use and much more.

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