3Dmouthguard progression, 2016. [Image: 3Dmouthguard via Facebook]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that over 600,000 visits to the emergency room each year in the US are due to sports-related dental injuries, which just makes me cringe…the only potential I ever had for a (semi)sports-related dental injury was if I marched into someone on the field during band and accidentally jammed my flute into my mouth. More than one-quarter of all total dental injuries are sports-related, with basketball, boxing, hockey, and martial arts representing some of the highest-risk activities.

But luckily, as we’ve seen time and again, many serious sports injuries can potentially be prevented by using 3D printing to fabricate protective equipment, such as mouthguards.

Global science-based company Royal DSM, which is headquartered in the Netherlands and is active in health, materials, and nutrition, takes 3D printing pretty seriously. The company has now announced a new partnership with Dutch sports initiative 3Dmouthguard, located in Eindhoven, with a technical launch yesterday.

3Dmouthguard believes that athletes can better focus on their performance if they have access to custom, sustainable protective gear, which is why it digitizes and automates the full process of making custom mouthguards, in cooperation with its partners Carestream Dental, DentalairNHL Stenden Hogeschool, and now DSM and Mass Portal.

“We believe that in a few years from now, 3D printed mouthguard machines will be a must have in every sports facility around the world,” said Arno Hermans, CEO of 3Dmouthguard. “For us the technology is also a start of a whole field of new applications. It enables us to learn, develop and explore new products like shinguards, helmets, and elbow protection, and it can benefit markets beyond sports such as healthcare.”

By digitizing part of its production process, 3Dmouthguard, which combines both comfort and safety in its 3D printed mouthguards, can achieve better access, accuracy, delivery, and personalization.

In this new partnership, DSM and 3Dmouthguard will work together to develop custom-made, instantly 3D printed mouthguards that will protect against mouth and teeth injuries in all types of sports that involve sticks, balls, bats, or person-to-person contact.

“We are pleased that our materials and AM/3D knowledge can help to transform the mouthguard market by making the production of high quality mouth protectors fast and easy, helping prevent oral injuries,” said Hugo Ferreira da Silva, Vice President at DSM Additive Manufacturing. “Providing the right material and the right platform for specific applications is key to accelerating the adoption of 3D printing into real manufacturing. Collaboration in the industry will allow more applications to benefit from the great advantages of additive manufacturing, at an affordable cost.”

DSM and 3Dmouthguard are working with the sports initiative’s existing partners, Carestream and NHL Stenden Hogeschool, and as a result have created a new technology that allows them to 3D print custom-made mouthguards on demand and on the spot.

First, the athlete’s upper jaw is scanned, digitally capturing all of the shapes and curves of their mouth and teeth. Then, using FFF technology and Ultimaker and Mass Portal 3D printers, a custom-fitted mouthguard can be 3D printed on the spot for the athlete.

DSM’s bio-based and highly flexible TPC (ThermoPlastic Co-polymer) material Arnitel is used to fabricate the 3D printed mouthguards. The material meets all of the necessary flexibility, health, and strength requirements, and when compared to TPU, has very good UV and chemical resistance.

Combined with the material characteristics of 3D printable Arnitel, the new 3D printing technique the partnership developed has totally automated and digitized the production process for custom, instant, 3D printed mouthguards.

The first 3D printed mouthguards produced through this partnership will soon be tested by athletes who belong to Dutch field hockey clubs. Then, partnering developers and scientists will use the data that’s captured from the field hockey players to improve and scale up the 3D printing process for the mouthguards through the combined expertise of 3Dmouthguard, DSM, Carestream, and NHL Stenden Hogeschool.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Images provided by DSM]

 

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