Additive Manufacturing Strategies

3D Printed Mouthguards: Collaborating to Develop the Ideal Solution

ST Medical Devices

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DSM’s Gabi Janssen will be speaking at 3DPrint.com’s upcoming AMS online industry summit (Feb 9-10, 2021). Register here.

What do you do when you score in a match? You smile – and show off your protective mouthguard! 3Dmouthguard founder Arno Hermans knew that making comfortable mouthguards required extensive labor and a hefty price tag. Plus, if a mouthguard is left in a pocket after the game and put through the washing machine and dryer, the result was a deformed mouthguard that no longer offered protection. That meant wasted time and money and a return trip to the dentist for a new one. Cheaper, non-customized alternatives were ill-fitting and uncomfortable. Hermans felt additive manufacturing could offer a better solution, and he took on the challenge of creating a new standard for production of mouthguards.

Hermans was familiar with the capabilities of 3D printing and 3D scanning solutions, but as he dug deeper, he realized he’d need to collaborate in order to address some challenges.

Together, DSM and Hermans developed a material (Arnitel®) that was safe for use in the oral cavity and also offered a high level of accuracy for a perfect fit and better protection against high impact. Additionally, by producing mouthguards using 3D printing versus thermoforming, concern over a mouthguard being deformed after an accidental cycle in the washing machine and dryer became a non-issue. Mouthguards produced via thermoforming returned to a flattened, misshapen state if heated again. With fused filament fabrication and Arnitel®, heat didn’t affect the final shape of the mouthguard.

Having a ready-to-use mouthguard produced in under an hour was critical; Hermans knew it was important to have quick production and maintain high surface quality. DSM and Hermans connected with Mass Portal, an open material desktop 3D printer designer and manufacturer, to determine the optimal print settings for this solution. The combination of printing with Arnitel® and Mass Portal’s printer validation allowed faster production while not compromising on quality, saving the user time while waiting for their new mouthguard.

Other benefits of this collaboration to create 3D printed mouthguards include a scanning process that is more accurate and comfortable for users. Instead of an uncomfortable mold, a user would have a small wand scan their mouth and teeth, providing data needed to generate the mouthguard. Scanning picks up intricate details, resulting in a more comfortable and better fitting mouthguard. This data is shared in a database as well, so in the event a new mouthguard is needed, it can easily and quickly be printed.

Oxford University Innovation has been analyzing what 3D printing materials are best to withstand impact. This study will be published this year, but based on data and testing, DSM and Hermans are confident Arnitel® is a perfect fit for high velocity impact applications.

Hermans saw the potential for improved protective mouthguards via additive manufacturing, but it was by collaborating with DSM and Mass Portal that a solution was created.

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