The biggest hurdle for any dentist right out of medical college in setting up their own practise is the cost of the equipment, particularly the large dentist's chair which can cost anywhere between Rs 1 to 5 lakh. But a group of three IIT-Kanpur students in collaboration with a team from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana University might have come up with a solution for that.

The three IITians have a designed 'Flux', a dentist's chair that is currently undergoing clinical trials. And if it hits the market it could be available to dentists for all low as Rs 20,000!

A typical dentist's chair | Source: AFP

"We were working with the Sardar Patel Institute of Dental and Medical Sciences. The institution mentioned that dentists starting out find it difficult to start their own clinics since the cost of chairs and tools is expensive," Shantanu Bhattacharya, the professor who mentored the students, told ScoopWhoop over the telephone.

During the course of this discussion a joint proposal for making inexpensive dentist's chair was approved by the hospital and IIT, he said.

Three students, Amit Kundal, Mohit Tewari and Shiva Kumar M, who were part of the Design Department at the institute were picked on the basis of an interview conducted at Stanford University. They were tasked with coming up with a cost effective design and the cost of the project (Rs 7-8 lakh) would be met by the hospital and their institute.

They analysed the existing dentist's chair and interacted with dentists at the medical institute to understand what was lacking in the high-end chairs that was already available. And here's what they found:

"We wanted to make sure that the primary functions of the chair were not hampered. We were focusing on an incremental innovation rather than a radical innovation so that it can be easily adopted by the users," Amit Kundal, the leader of the team, told ScoopWhoop.

They come with the first design in January 2015 and went through six to seven prototypes before ending up with a final design.

A post graduate student using the chair.

"It took us nearly six to seven months to complete the project. Four students from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana University were our external academic partners," he said.

The group was mentored by Larry Liefer, a professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford, where classes were held on how to design the chair.

Mohit Tewari (left) and Amit Kundal (right) with Larry Liefer sitting on Flux

"Building a final prototype of the chair from a sketch was a huge challenge and it involved a lot of complexities. We were making some alterations that required behavioural changes in dentist and patients too. Hence getting that accepted through tests was a challenge," Kundal said.

The final prototype of the chair was ready by June 2015 and has been undergoing clinical trials since September. It has not been decided yet when the chair will be launched in the market.

So what are the features that set Flux apart from its high-end competitors? Apart from being lightweight and occupying less space, the IIT students are highlighting the following unique features:



So how did the students manage to bring down the cost of the chair?

The students said they managed to bring down the cost considerably thanks to the use of less material, local manufacturing, and reducing the size of the big light that is used by the dentist.

They're hoping that the lower cost and size of the chair will mean that dental care will be more available to rural areas in the country. Here's hoping their wish comes true.








All images courtesy Amit Kundal.