Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Prodways Announces Clear Aligners Manufacturing Ecosystem

ST Medical Devices

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At Lab Day 2020 in Chicago, Prodways has announced the development of its Clear Aligners Manufacturing Ecosystem, meant to cover all aspects of the design and production of clear aligners. Developed in partnership with prevalent companies in the digital dentistry space—3Shape, Full Contour, Imes-Icore and Dreve—the product ecosystem can deliver up to 1200 aligners daily, according to Prodways.

As SmarTech Analysis has reported, the market for additive manufacturing in dentistry was on track to surpass $2.7 billion in 2019, with an anticipated 500 million dental devices and restorations projected to be produced annually by 2022. If you’ve seen an TV ads lately, you’ve likely caught one 3D-printed dental item that is already in high demand.

Clear dental aligners were among the first consumer products to be mass manufactured with the use of 3D printing. These devices are typically made by the following workflow: an intraoral scan of a patient’s mouth captures the 3D data used to design a model of their teeth; this model is 3D printed before the aligner thermoformed on top of the mold.

Given the success of clear aligners, not only are there now numerous competing aligner brands, but also 3D printing companies vying for their business. Prodways aims to stake out its own territory in the segment with what it considers the first end-to-end digital manufacturing solution. This includes 3D scanning, data preparation, treatment design, 3D printing, thermoforming, laser marking and trimming, with hardware and software integration and automation along each step. Part of this automation comes in the form of the automatic platform loader and unloader (seen in the video below), a semi-automatic thermoforming module and an automatic laser marking and trimming module.

With Prodways linking together 3Shape, Full Contour, Imes-Icore and Dreve, each companies’ hardware and software are interoperable. This results in the ability to manufacture up to 1200 aligners per day at what Prodways suggests is a low cost-per-part and a short time to market.

This ecosystem is a significant one for Prodways, which has been building its spot in the dental market for some time. The company’s MOVINGLight DLP technology is known for its high throughput, making it ideal for batch production of products like dental molds for aligners. The release of the LD3 system marked the company’s entry into smaller systems that can be used in dentistry, as well as jewelry and other fields. The acquisition of Solidscape also added to its footprint in the dental market.

As Prodways works to fully automate the process of making clear dental aligners, they may have some stiff competition, particularly from the likes of HP, which is already claiming to make 50,000 molds for aligners per day via its customer, the Smile Direct Club.

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