AMS Spring 2023

ArchForm’s 3D Printed Aligner Factory Set to Reduce Orthodontist Costs


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Orthodontic software startup ArchForm has announced the opening of its own 3D printed aligner factory for orthodontists. At half the price of other aligner companies, ArchForm is now competing against industry leaders like Invisalign, byte, Candid, and SmileDirectClub. The company’s manufactured aligners will be created using 3D printers and precision robotic engineering, capable of delivering aligners to orthodontist offices in 10 to 14 days. The company will start serving select customers in fall 2020 before it becomes available worldwide in December.

Acting as an ideal alternative to painful metal traditional braces that have been around since the 1970s, 3D printed invisible plastic aligners are currently the first choice for teenagers and adults alike. The orthodontics industry has been at the forefront of 3D printing in the past decade, with SmarTech Analysis projecting a $317.3M revenue opportunity by 2028 for additive manufacturing (AM) and clear aligners. However, these 3D printed treatments still tend to cost about the same or more than traditional metal braces, ranging from $3,000 to $8,000 – depending on the severity of the treatment required. Historically and on average, clear aligner costs run higher than metal braces, with braces costing an average of $5,500 and Invisalign treatment averaging $4,500.

Preparing models faster using ArchForm, automatic basing for vertical printing and naming of models. Image courtesy of ArchForm.

ArchForm has said that the high costs associated with metal braces come from the frequent doctor-performed chair time in adjusting brackets and wires, while pioneering Invisalign cut down on some of those costs. Yet much of the orthodontist´s profit margin is controlled by the parent company, Align, with orthodontists currently paying about $1,700 per patient to Invisalign, and other clear aligner providers following the same regime. ArchForm’s aligner platform is helping to change this pricing structure. With ArchForm, the cost to orthodontists comes down to $542 to print a moderate-to-severe case in-office, and the company only charges $14 per patient.

The San Fransisco-based company claims its aligner platform makes the product cheaper for both doctors and patients. Since 2016, ArchForm has been trying to tap into the growing demand for customized clear aligners by offering orthodontists the chance to 3D print their clear aligners in-office. By using its 3D software doctors have created customized treatments for tens of thousands of patients. This new production facility will add yet another option to professionals, by combining the speed of 3D printing in-office aligners with the ease of outsourcing, making aligner therapy more accessible and affordable than ever before, the startup suggested.

“I envision the future of aligners looking dramatically different very soon. This cost-disruptive model will democratize aligners starting at the doctor level. By giving doctors more control to 3D print their own aligners, it makes aligner therapy more affordable and accessible for everyone,” said Andrew Martz, the 28-year-old founder of ArchForm, who was inspired to create the company after working at his father’s orthodontic office.

Using ArchForm software to prepare dental models. Image courtesy of ArchForm

The production of dental aligners involves the use of specialty 3D software to develop a stepwise series of between 30 to 40 designs meant to adjust a patient’s teeth based on scan data. The resulting models are then 3D printed and the actual aligners are made by thermoforming biocompatible plastic over the models. For many orthodontist offices that already own 3D printers, incorporating ArchForm´s software saves them money and gives orthodontists full control over treatment plans with what the company describes as an “easy-to-use software that can plan cases faster with automatic one-click features.”

However, for practices that are not planning to invest in a 3D printer, the company´s new production facility is ideal for outsourcing the aligner designs. By using higher-resolution 3D printers, three-layer plastic materials, and trimmed by robots for more comfortable precision than could be done by hand, ArchForm claims to produce more accurately shaped aligners with less visible layer lines.

ArchForm’s full-service aligner platform is now complete with newly manufactured aligners, giving orthodontists full control of their practice. According to the company, they can now 3D print aligners in-office, order 3D printed aligners from ArchForm, or combine in-office and outsourced aligners for cost and time savings.

“Coupled with ArchForm’s treatment plans, aligner therapy is now affordable and easy for orthodontists, without the barriers of cost or equipment,” the company stated in a press release.

But orthodontists are not the only ones taking advantage of ArchForm’s platform, Professor Thomas Stamm at the University Hospital Muenster, in Germany, is using ArchForm as an interactive tool to teach his students how to move teeth.

Professor T. Stamm at the University Hospital Muenster uses ArchForm to teach his students. Image courtesy of ArchForm

Ideally, orthodontists using ArchForm can take digital scans during their patient’s initial appointment, 3D print same-day aligners in their office labs, and outsource the rest of the patient’s treatment with ArchForm’s manufactured aligners. By cutting down the waiting time from four to six weeks – the time it usually takes to receive aligners – orthodontists can offer their patients the best of both worlds, which is same-day aligners with doctor-performed treatment. Aligner production is currently offered for orthodontists via a FormFactory waiting list on their website.

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