Let there be light!

Sterilizable LED modules, shadow-free illumination and new device concepts: glass technology is accelerating innovation and advancements in dentistry.

Sterilizable LED modules, shadow-free illumination and new device concepts: glass technology is accelerating innovation and advancements in dentistry.

Glass as a material for the medical industry? Holger Werner, sales manager for medical products in SCHOTT’s Lighting and Imaging business unit, has a wide grin when he responds: “For a lot of people, they only think of glass being used for test tubes in the laboratory. But we have taken this highly versatile material and developed it into a technological pacesetter for a wide range of innovative solutions which can be used in dentistry, as an example.” For these professionals, Werner explains that robust and consistently bright lighting is essential to perform successful procedures in the oral cavity. Glass helps achieve ideal working conditions by serving as a superb optical light guide, providing brilliant illumination for oral procedures.

Utilizing over 130 years of experience in the development and manufacturing of specialized glasses, SCHOTT has developed PURAVIS® high-performance glass optical fibers. The fiber-optic light guides can be processed as rigid rods that transmit light from an LED source to the tip of hand-held devices and contra-angles, drills, and other instruments used in the dental treatments. A diverse offering of designs, including 2D or 3D geometries, deliver space-saving solutions for small devices and instruments.

Hot steam? No problem!

The glass used for these fibers meets the highest medical standards: it is ultra-clean, biocompatible and environmentally friendly. These qualities are derived from the glass’ unique manufacturing process: the production is free from any use or contact with lead, arsenic, or antimony. The glass delivers groundbreaking performance as well: it offers excellent transmission of both white light and light in the near UV range. This is particularly noteworthy as it allows new diagnostic procedures to be utilized for the detection of cavities and cancer, amongst other conditions. The glass fibers can also be sterilized in an autoclave thousands of times throughout their life cycle while still maintaining strong and consistent illumination. The ability to be sterilized with hot steam is vital for all medical instruments and devices which come into direct contact with the human body. Sensitive electronics, which are increasingly utilized in modern medical devices, must be able to repeatedly withstand autoclaving conditions without losing functionality. The autoclaving conditions include temperatures of more than 130°C, exposure to moisture, high pressure, and chemically aggressive substances. This challenge is another part of the medical landscape where glass can play a critical role: vacuum-sealed enclosures made of glass and metal or ceramic and metal allow for the protection of integrated medical electronics against the adverse effects brought on by the sterilization process.

By manufacturing device housings using purely inorganic, non-aging sealing materials, a gas-tight enclosure can be produced. These glass-to-metal seals are extremely robust and durable, providing highly reliable protection for the encapsulated electronic components. Using integrated electrical contacts, they enable reliable power and signal supply into and out of the vacuum-tight interior of the housing. “SCHOTT has been perfecting this sealing technology for more than 75 years and is considered a leading developer and manufacturer of glass-to-metal and ceramic-to-metal seals and feedthroughs,” notes Dr. Frank Gindele, Head of Development for LEDs at SCHOTT Electronic Packaging in the Bavarian city of Landshut.

PURAVIS® glass optical fibers transmit light from an LED source. Photo: SCHOTT AG

Medical technology manufacturers benefit from the high quality and customization flexibility offered by glass-to-metal sealed components, which can be custom designed for use in new, customer-specific products. SCHOTT Solidur® LEDs are a perfect match for the medical industry to serve as an integrated device lighting solution. Their compact, space-saving design structure allows them to be installed directly in the tip of instruments, creating entirely new possibilities for light sources in medical devices. Light can now be integrated where it was previously not possible to incorporate a traditional LED solution, either due to space constraints, autoclaving requirements, or both.

LEDs in various designs

In contrast to LEDs in conventional enclosures, high-brightness LEDs from SCHOTT demonstrate long-term resistance to moisture and other adverse effects thanks to its special housing technology that utilizes a hermetic glass-to-metal seal. The protection has been proven in a rigid testing process: SCHOTT Solidur® LEDs have been shown to withstand more than 3,500 steam sterilization cycles. Customizable designs within the Solidur® LED family range from the tiny Mini LED with a diameter of roughly 2-mm, the easy-to-integrate TO (transistor outline) LED, to the Solidur® Ring LED which enables shadow-free illumination thanks to its ring-shaped LED chip arrangement. In addition, optical parameters such as luminous flux, wavelength and light beam angle can be custom-modified according to customer specifications.

These properties and technical options topple previous barriers that put limitations on medical device designs and capabilities. “Our LEDs can be integrated on the tip of dental turbines, curing devices, intraoral cameras, and scalers. Thanks to the special product features of Solidur® LEDs, instruments which previously had to function without illumination due to space limitations or autoclaving requirements can now be equipped with a high-brightness, sterilizable light source. Application examples include handheld dental mirrors and saliva suction tools. Developing customer-specific LED designs is something we are proud to offer to best serve our customers’ needs,” explains Christoph Stangl, Sales Manager for LEDs at SCHOTT. This message has been well received in the dental industry with the first devices using Solidur® LEDs now well established in the market.

Solidur® LEDs can be individually designed for various requirements. Photo: SCHOTT AG

September 8, 2017


Kevin Waxman
Electronic Packaging
SCHOTT North America, Inc.

Brigitte Sterf
Lighting and Imaging
SCHOTT North America, Inc.