3D printing software developer Oqton, a subsidiary of 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD), has partnered with Chinese metal laser powder bed fusion (PBF) maker Eplus3D to combine solutions for the dental market. Together, the companies will apply their respective solutions and expertise to create automated dental solutions with full traceability.
SmarTech Analysis suggests that, through 2030, the dental 3D printing market will be the slowest growing sector, due to the relative maturity of the segment. Now, we are going to see a refinement and full establishment of a complete dental 3D printing workflow. In the case of this latest partnership, this means the introduction of software automation to 3D printed metal components. While patient-specific dental restorations are already made with additive manufacturing (AM), there is still a great deal of human intervention in the design of the final model. Moreover, regulations and certifications such as the EU Medical Device Regulation and ISO-13485 require traceability across the entire process as it relates to people, machines, and materials.
By working together, Oqton and Eplus3D hope to streamline this process. Oqton’s Manufacturing OS will provide full transparency and traceability to Eplus3D customers. The platform automates the workflow, from design to file prep, thus reducing the need for human intervention. Included in the software is high-density layered nesting and interlocking 3D nesting of removable partial denture frames. In addition to optimized support strategies that require less post-processing time, this enables greater machine productivity. Oqton’s machine execution system (MES) software also includes scheduling and planning for equipment, materials, and workers across multiple production sites, including full version history for regulatory compliance.
“We’re excited to officially recognize Eplus3D as a trusted partner amongst a host of forward-thinking industry leaders,” said Kris Wouters, general manager – healthcare, Oqton. “We are impressed with their commercial success based on the metal 3D printing technology they’ve developed, and its ability to help dental labs produce patient-specific devices such as crowns, bridges, and RPD frames. As we move forward, we will continue to deepen our technical collaboration, further helping customers achieve desired results with improved productivity while maintaining regulatory compliance.”
“Our collaboration with Oqton first began in 2018, as we set out to fully integrate their innovative Manufacturing OS into our Eplus3D printers,” said Mary Li, head of overseas division, Eplus3D. “Since that time, we’ve become increasingly acquainted with their expertise and technology, and are impressed by the easy-to-use, smart algorithms they’ve created. We’re looking forward to our continued collaboration to simplify production workflows for our customers – helping them unlock the full potential of AM to accelerate industrialization.”
One customer of the solution, MT3D, is already weighing in on the technology. Willem Van Cauwenberge, head of engineering, noted, “Oqton allows us to get the most out of our Eplus3D printer. It significantly simplifies and improves our workflows compared to our previous software solution, and more importantly, for dental parts, it almost completely automates the data preparation. Oqton saves us invaluable time setting up each build.”
Oqton was acquired by 3D Systems in 2021 and we are already seeing the benefits the technology can bring a specific vertical. Under its former CEO VJ Yoshi and continued under more recent CEO Jeff Graves, the company focused on bolstering particular industries and applications. Its medical and dental division, 3D Systems Healthcare, represented the paragon of this strategy in that regard. This was then ported over to industrial 3D printing. Therefore, we may expect a similar plan for Oqton, as its MES tools are applied to other sectors.
Interestingly, Eplus3D is a competitor to 3D Systems’ own metal 3D printing line, demonstrating a commitment to the machine agnostic approach of the subsidiary. EOS President of North America Glynn Fletcher explained that he wasn’t particularly worried about the increase in Chinese competition, due to increased nationalism for domestic production. It seems that 3D Systems isn’t concerned either, in this case. Perhaps, given the strengthening of native supply chains being pursued by most nations and businesses is playing out, as Fletcher argued.
Another aspect of the competition here is on the MES front. So far, 3D Systems is one of only a handful of MES developers. Materialise (Nasdaq: MTLS) is the other large firm in the business against mostly startups, aside from EOS-backed 3YOURMIND. 3D Systems CEO Jeff Graves suggested that the entire industry will advance if Oqton remains agnostic and Materialise Senior Marketing Director of Software Hans Van Glabeke argued the same thing when we spoke to him at RAPID + TCT 2022 about the company’s CO-AM software and MES ecosystem. Therefore, it may be true that the tide of MES will lift all 3D printing boats to the level of industrial production.
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