Additive Manufacturing Strategies

One Click Metal Partners with i-ProDens and imes-icore to Bring Metal Printing to Dental

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One Click Metal is a low-cost metal printer manufacturer started by Trumpf and, now, a subsidiary of machine tool firm Index. Since the Index acquisition, the German firm has partnered with dental production company i-ProDens and CAD/CAM systems firm imes-icore to bring metal printing to the dental market. imes-icore is a CAD/CAM solutions provider for the dental industry, selling CNC milling equipment as well as supplies and software to dental labs and dentists. i-ProDens is a dental manufacturing service that makes dental appliances, abutments, plugs and crowns.

Below, we can see Gerrit Brüggemann (CEO, One Click Metal), Christoph Stark (CEO, imes-icore) and Yohannes Woldegergis (CEO, i-ProDens). A triumvirate such as this means that the partnership will industrialize metal 3D printing for things such as crowns and bridges together.

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“The dental market is an important market for us, as customers here are already producing economi- cally with our technology. With the dental system manufacturer imes-icore, which has an established international market access and a solid understanding of customers, and the milling centre i-ProDens, which brings both the process understanding and the customer view, we have found two very strong partners to jointly give dental customers the opportunity to expand their service port- folio in a reasonable and profitable way,” said Brüggemann says.

This will accelerate One Click Metal’s introduction into the market considerably. By working with a company that understands customers and needs in dental, as well as a specialized manufacturing firm, the company can now qualify materials, parts, and its printer with relevant partners and industry-specific expertise. Rather than go it alone and aim to learn a lot about this specific market, the company has chosen to partner to gain experience quickly. It leaves margin on the table and will tie it to these partners, but should also expedite its market entry considerably. Insider knowledge will also enable it to avoid pitfalls and focus its attentions on where users want and need.
Such a market entry should therefore be more accurate, as well. Rather than blundering around, the firm should be aided through its partners’ knowledge and contacts. More than a partner with a reseller or a machine builder, adding in a production service will allow for more data to be known and used to improve the trio’s joint offering. The manufacturer will be critical and will need its specifications to be met. Changes in the material, print settings, or details such as service offerings will be done according to their needs which will help tailor this market introduction for the dental market. Yield, total cost of ownership, part cost, and the repeatability of the machine are key things that these partners will all learn and understand together.
Rather than bottle this knowledge behind one of their walls, they will more rapidly test, qualify and industrialize One Click Metal’s printer for dental. The coupons, test settings, real-world trials and results will be built up faster. Through the manufacturing firm’s service, other dental labs can get parts in their hands faster, which will accelerate adoption, as well. I love this and think that this is an excellent market penetration strategy.

 “In this groundbreaking cooperation, we are taking anot- her important step into the digital future of dental technology. Our highly specialised and dedicated team is eager to contribute its many years of experience in building dental frameworks with AM systems and to optimise the process. We look forward to forming the ideal network with imes-icore and One Click Metal,” said Woldegergis.

A One Click Metal Bold machine being installed.

Stratasys and EnvisionTEC have already shown us how valuable industry-specific solutions can be. But, in this case, these three firms are developing one jointly to facilitate their use of 3D printing. Joint market penetration and a partnership of three will be difficult to manage, but, if they pull this off, then this is a model for other companies to follow. This makes it so that all of the real manufacturing and client needs are exposed to the machine maker who can respond directly to them.

There was a run on dental 3D printing a few years ago, which became a bit of a market pileup really. But, the digitization of dentistry continues apace. Many labs are using digital light processing and stereolithography printers to make molds or temporary bridges and crowns already. Low-cost vat polymerization printers are penetrating individual dentists offices, as well as dental labs. These systems are inexpensive and easy to operate.

Metal printing, however, has traditionally required a lot higher investment up front, as well as a much more considerable running costs and complexity. A successful investment in a metal powder bed fusion set up may need $2 million or so to work out. It will also take you half a year or more to be able to learn enough so that you can begin production. One Click Metal’s machines are around $100,000. Through keeping the material in cartridges, a lot of the metal powder handling issues are simplified. Indeed the machine is simpler to service, run, and work with all around. This means that One Click’s machines could be affordable and usable by thousands of dental labs.

A One Click Metal cartridge.

In the Push Button Metal series, I looked at the emerging low-cost metal landscape. I believe that it has the ability to vastly increase our market size and expand 3D printing significantly. By partnering here, One Click can really get ahead of the competition, offering an easy-to-adopt solution for the dental industry. If the company could make everything from training to service work, they will have a winning proposition on their hands.

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