Invisalign is one of the 3D printing manufacturing success stories. The clear aligners company has changed how you can straighten your teeth. By using CT scan based unique 3D printed molds to make a series of aligners for you as your teeth change Invisalign has made getting a more movie-like smile easier. The firm has 3D printed millions of stereolithography molds over the years and built out the segment to a well-known brand. Recently their success has attracted a number of competitors, chief amongst them SmileDirectClub.
SmileDirectClub is pursuing an aggressive growth strategy in deploying direct to consumer marketing to become the number two purveyor of smiles worldwide. For molding SLA (stereolithography) is difficult to beat. Parts come out at the smoothest quality for 3D printing with high levels of detail. There is some finishing always with this technology and the resins are very expensive but on the whole, whether it be for jewelry lost wax casting, dental molds or things like aligners the technology is tried and true. Tens of millions of SLA parts have been used in indirect manufacturing and for this application it (and the related DLP technology) is the most obvious technology to try. Its the default by a wide margin and most wouldn’t veer away from it.
The smile hunters at SmileDirectClub tried a different route however. Smile Direct Club now uses HP’s Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printing technology to produce molds. I’d like to personally extend a heartfelt hug and high five to the HP sales/business development person that made this happen. You dear Sir or Madame are amazing! You rock. This is an achievement. You took a bag of powdery parts and talked these people out of the slippery smooth SLA way. Salespeople could just be at the right firm at the right time. Like a cruise ship passenger, a salesperson could just have boarded the right cruise at the right time and the ship, crew, captain all could have fallen in place to make their bonus possible quarter after quarter. Or the best salesperson ever could have simply gotten on the wrong pirate ship. Sometimes however salespeople make a real difference and break into new markets and applications. This is one of those times. Amazing job and indeed a great day for HP.
SmileDirectClub will use 49 HP Jet Fusion 3D printers for manufacturing 24/7. The printers will make more than 50,000 molds a day. This makes SmileDirectClub one of the largest users of HP systems worldwide. The company is on track to make 20 million 3D printed molds over the next 12 months.
In one fell swoop HP has gone from, looks cute might delete later, to a viable option for manufacturing companies. If you can make positives for mold applications cost effectively then a lot of other applications will be possible also. At the same time, the partners will turn the molds and unused powder into pellets for injection molding applications. All companies should do this. This is great for people that used to hang out with Sting and the world in general as well. Its also quite the brilliant marketing move because the competing SLA molds are thermosets and can’t be recycled. This representa a Big day for HP and a sends a strong signal for the validation of the technology. Well done all around.
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