Formlabs already has firm footing in the dental market, with its biocompatible resins and FDA-certified stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers, the Form 3B and Form 3BL. Now, the Massachusetts 3D printing double unicorn is not only making its footprint larger in the sector, but making waves, as well. Formlabs has validated its benchtop selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printer, Fuse 1, for the production of orthodontic models. Additionally, the company has reformulated its Model Resin to double the speed of restorative model production for its SLA printers, and has had the Form 3B, 3BL, and Fuse 1 all validated by 3Shape for their Clear Aligner Enterprise solution.
The dental aligner industry is one of 3D printing’s prime success stories, with the additive manufacturing of patient-specific dental models essential for the thermoforming of clear braces. So far, this workflow has been the realm of SLA and digital light processing systems, and possibly large-scale industrial SLS, but Formlabs is introducing SLS to the mix. The company suggests that the Fuse 1 can produce over 150 dental models for clear aligners in a single printer, making it a high-throughput alternative to SLA at a lower cost than large-scale SLS. In turn, Formlabs claims that aligner model production cost can be cut by 50 percent per part.
The Fuse 1 has been validated alongside the Form 3B and Form 3BL by 3Shape for clear aligner model production. Using its Clear Aligner Enterprise solution, which covers the various aspects of the digital dentistry workflow from 3D scanning to 3D printing, 3Shape was able to determine that these systems worked sufficiently for 3D printing models for manufacturing dental aligners.
3Shape is already well-established in the 3D printing industry, partnering with not only Formlabs for previous dental products, but also with EnvisionTEC and Prodways, with whom the company has worked to automate the production of clear aligners. The company has worked beyond dental applications with Formlabs to digitize the manufacturing of custom earbuds.
Sam Wainwright, Formlabs Dental Product Manager, noted, “Formlabs Dental is laser focused on making flexible and patient-specific treatment protocols accessible to every dental professional through 3D printing. To achieve this we are constantly looking for partners – 3Shape recognizes the benefits of our printers; they are affordable, easy-to-use, and ultimately fulfill the industry’s need to digitize workflows to optimize the patient experience.”
Additionally, Formlabs has reformulated its Model Resin for SLA machines, with the new material able to increase print speed by 50 percent and cut overall work time, including post-processing, by 60 percent.
“Dental manufacturing demands a high degree of customization, and 3D printing is the key solution to enabling that customization at scale without sacrificing cost, speed, or quality,” said Dávid Lakatos, Chief Product Officer at Formlabs. “With more than ten dental-specific resins powering our SLA line of printers, we are disrupting the dental market with high-speed resins for dental practitioners and labs to create high-quality, patient-specific dental products. Now with the Fuse 1’s validation for dental manufacturing we are expanding our dental offerings to our SLS line of printers and enabling even greater speed, versatility, and affordability for our dental users.”
Formlabs has earned itself a reputation for a good user experience and the ability to produce high quality parts. During our AM Investment Summit, CEO Max Lobovsky seemed to imply that he is happy with the price point and market area that the company is targeting. So, we may expect the company to proliferate and refine its products in various verticals, such as dental in this case, rather than aiming for higher throughput, higher priced products.
In other words, we may see the Fuse 1 marketed toward medical applications next. Either that, or maybe Formlabs will come out with a low-cost metal 3D printer, which wouldn’t be surprising at all.
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