Photo by Dr Kazem AlemzadehIf the human jaw was not so complex, perhaps a Chewing Robot would not be an asset to dental research. But the jaw lets us chew in so many different ways, that humans turn out to be not-so-efficient testers of dental materials.
In Britain, where roughly $6 million dollars are spent each year on testing dental materials to replace or strengthen teeth, researchers at the University of Bristol's Department of Mechanical Engineering, in collaboration with the Department of Oral and Dental Science set about developing a robot to do the testing. He/she/it is called simply the Chewing Robot, and (it!) was shown at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition this weekend (while we in the U.S. celebrate our freedom from Britain).
CAD model: Photo by Daniel Raabe
Chewing Robot is a very fine example of biomimicry in engineering as its capability to move its facial joints are identical to our own. It can test new materials for crowns, bridges or artificial teeth and evaluate them quickly by mimicking the same force and dynamics sustained by human chewing.
Daniel Raabe from the University of Bristol said that the new robot can "help the dental industry dramatically improve the process of
developing new dental materials. [It] illustrates how engineering can
identify and replicate key features from nature to develop new
technologies which benefit people all over the world."2009 Summer Science Exhibit