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4X Production for Dental 3D Printing Achieved via 3D Systems’ Auto-Stacking Feature

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The benefits of high throughput automated workflows have been a big part of the success behind 3D printed dental aligners. The customizable products were one of the first in the dentistry field to take advantage of the full potential of 3D printing hardware and software. For a while, dental 3D printer manufacturers have been looking for a spillover effect of integrated processes to other products, like crowns, molds, and dentures.

Aiming to scale production of dental parts, companies like EnvisionTEC and Formlabs have already introduced complete ecosystems, the cDLM and Formlabs 3B respectively. So has 3D Systems; its new software workflow for batch production of orthodontic models is now available to users of the NextDent 5100 printers. To prove the potential of the new feature, the company recently revealed to how one of its clients, California-based dental lab DenMat, was able to boost the production of vertically stacked printing models.

NextDent 5100 prints vertically stacked orthodontic models (Image courtesy of 3D Systems)

Working with 3D Systems’ NextDent 5100 and the new auto-stacking capability has helped DenMat increase the output of orthodontic models by up to four times. As one of the leading dental product providers in the United States, DenMat has been developing innovative solutions for professionals since 1974, when founder and dental surgeon Robert Ibsen became determined to find solutions that could save his patients from having their healthy teeth structure unnecessarily ground down to fit dental crowns or bridges. Unable to find adequate materials, products, and techniques that would ensure minimally invasive procedures, Ibsen created his own. Today, the company offers a myriad of products for dental practices and has become an innovative laboratory as well as one of the earliest adopters of digital solutions for dental restoration.

For a high volume lab like DenMat, productivity, reliability, and accuracy are critical to generating dentistry solutions that increase high-quality output. The company claimed that by using the NextDent 5100—built on Figure 4 technology—along with a range and diversity of NextDent materials, it has been capable to print orthodontic dental models, crown and bridge solutions, implant models for diagnostics, and impression trays. Now, through 3D Systems’ new auto-stack feature, the dental lab stated it was able to increase the output of orthodontic models to a total of 96 in an eight-hour shift, with each platform churning out 26 models in two hours and 11 minutes – including all preparation and post-processing times.

The new auto-stacking feature helped DenMat print more parts in less time (Image courtesy of 3D Systems)

To optimize high-precision, vertically stacked printing of orthodontic models, the new feature incorporates the NextDent 5100 3D printer, NextDent Model 2.0 material, and 3D Sprint software, making it possible to automatically prepare and place dental models on the build plate with a single click. The tool includes smart nesting and proprietary support structures that are meant to result in less material use and easy-to-remove supports while ensuring high precision.

“The NextDent 5100 is a very simple and easy to use solution, and offers the precision and part quality that we need for our applications. We are using it for a wide range of applications and producing a high volume of parts running 24/7 through our lab,” said Oscar Buenrostro, Model Shop, Milling and 3D Printing supervisor for DenMat. The expert also described his experience with the 3D Sprint workflow: “Everything from the file preparation and placement is done within the software. Simply clicking through the pre-filled prompted steps. The software truly does all the work, saving on labor cost.”

Buenrostro and his team rely on 3D Sprint, 3D Systems’ software for file preparation, editing, printing, and management from what is billed as a single, intuitive interface. According to 3D Systems, the software features automated part placement and support generation, and tools to modify the geometry without going back to the CAD data. The new auto-stacking feature in 3D Sprint is meant to provide advanced productivity for a very high volume application.

DenMat used the new auto-stacking feature with NextDent 5100 to print 26 models in just over two hours (Image courtesy of 3D Systems)

Already a $3.4 billion market, 3D printing for dental could become a $9.2 billion industry by 2028, according to predictions in SmarTech’s last report on the sector, released in March 2019. More importantly, today, much of the market for dental 3D printers stems from the larger laboratories, like DenMat, and will most likely continue to do so, as SmarTech also expects that, in the US, over 70% of dental labs will own 3D printing technology by 2021. 

In fact, most dental practitioners already outsource the majority of the manufacturing of restorations to laboratories, as well as orthodontic models needed to diagnose and plan patient treatment, mainly because these large dental solution providers have invested in digital equipment. They offer low-cost, high-quality print services to professionals in the field that want to offer 3D printed dentistry to their customers but can’t buy the printing machines.

DenMat printed 26 vertically stacked orthodontic models (Image courtesy of 3D Systems)

With over 40 years of experience, DenMat claims to provide dentists with a comprehensive solution for its busy practice, including a wide array of dental laboratory services, dental education, and dental products, many developed at the company’s facility on the Central Coast of California that are well known worldwide – like Lumineers, Snap-on Smile and BondLink. But when it comes to 3D printing, DenMat needs every step of the printing process to be as simple and streamlined as possible, from uploading the file and preparing it, to printing and postprocessing.

Dental repairs are in high demand all over the world. In the US, at least 120 million Americans are missing at least one tooth, and another 36 million people have no teeth, but only five million implants are made every year, leaving a wide gap that needs to be filled. While many countries in Europe struggle to offer high-quality healthcare at lower costs, especially with a growing elderly population and an increase in the migration of patients from Western Europe to Eastern Europe for affordable dental treatment. Clearly, the need for orthodontic models for diagnosis and treatment will continue to expand, and 3D printing technology can be a game-changer for dental labs across the world that need to make fixing teeth cheaper, faster, and widely available to customers.

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