LightForce Orthodontics, the trailblazer developer of a fully personalized 3D printed braces system, secured $80 million in Series D funding in a significant financial boost for the orthodontic sector. Spearheaded by Ally Bridge Group, the round aims to bolster LightForce’s mission of expanding its innovative approach to a wider segment of orthodontists and patients by enhancing its production scale and embedding advanced AI functionalities.
First announced by Alex Kingsbury and Danny Piper on 3DPrint.com‘s Printing Money podcast, this new funding stands out as one of the most substantial investments in the 3D printing sector this year, putting the company’s pre-money valuation at $317 million.
“These kinds of dollars are not dollars we’re necessarily used to talking about, particularly in a Series D and in 2023,” highlighted Kingsbury. “It seems like a great company, and [the funding] also confirms the fact that dental is a very mature market in the 3D printing space. To have launched in 2016 with an accelerator and have a fully FDA-approved product by 2019 that’s pretty exceptional. [Lightforce] is very quick in its development pace, as far as a medical product is concerned.”
Throughout six funding rounds, Lightforce Orthodontics has picked up an impressive total of $150.6 million in investments. Tracing back its funding journey, the company started by raising $6.5 million across several rounds from 2016 to 2018. Then momentum picked up in 2020 with an impressive $14 million from a Series B round. This was quickly followed in 2021 by a substantial $50 million injection. Out of its backers, CareCapital and Transformation Capital stand out as some of its latest investors.
“It’s great to see larger deals and growth equity rounds being done,” underscored Piper. “What’s interesting to me is that all of the hype of 3D printing has been around 3D printing aligners, and now you have this company 3D printing braces. Aligners just don’t work for everyone in the market, so there’s the idea that you can customize the actual bracket that goes onto the tooth, there’s a market for it and they’re building it out with software and hardware solution.”
Historically, the orthodontic field has persisted with techniques that have seen minimal change for over a century. However, LightForce is actively breaking from this mold by offering treatments that wrap up 45% quicker than conventional braces and curbing the number of scheduled appointments by an impressive 41%. This efficiency leap is mainly due to the company’s state-of-the-art digital workflow, harnessing both AI and 3D printing capabilities.
The orthodontic landscape reveals that 80% of patients opt for braces over aligners or other orthodontic tools. Among these, 32% are adults aged 18 years or older, and nearly a third of this demographic choose to wear a fixed appliance. In this context, LightForce says it offers solutions tailored to the modern orthodontic patient. The brand’s 3D printed clear ceramic brackets are tailored to match an individual’s tooth anatomy and bite. The LightTray bonding jig, an exclusive 3D printed indirect bonding (IDB) tray, is optimized for bonding accuracy, facilitating an efficient orthodontic process. In addition, the TurboTrays, designed to fine-tune a patient’s bite, show the precision 3D printing brings to orthodontics.
With the Series D funding inflow, LightForce is ready for a series of initiatives. The brand plans to grow its workforce of engineers and scientists, hoping to spur more innovations in software and hardware domains and boost the patient experience. At the same time, they’re building a new 36,000-square-foot factory in Wilmington, Massachusetts. Additionally, LightForce is focused on helping the industry learn more. It’s setting aside money to educate orthodontists about the latest advancements.
As a leading manufacturer of 3D printed medical devices, LightForce offers a comprehensive solution for orthodontists. Its software uses AI to provide accurate digital images of patient anatomy and to help decide the best teeth placements. Each of its 3D printed items is explicitly made based on an individual’s treatment plan.
Commenting on the company’s trajectory and the implications of this significant investment, LightForce CEO and Co-founder Alfred Griffin III expressed: “This incredible syndicate of investors brings diverse expertise from the medical device, health IT, AI, and advanced manufacturing sectors to provide critical resources and expert guidance that will support our overall growth and continued innovation. Teen patients have been limited by the inaccuracy and inefficiency of non-custom braces for decades. LightForce was founded to provide fully personalized treatment options to orthodontists for each of their patients to improve their outcomes and experience while in treatment.”
Sharing the same optimism, Kevin Reilly, Managing Director at Ally Bridge Group, indicated that “LightForce is taking the orthodontic industry to the next level. Their solution applies highly innovative technologies to enable the personalization of orthodontic treatment via 3D printing, helping patients achieve their best smiles. We are excited to be part of a diverse group of top-tier healthcare and tech investors that believe in the benefits of personalized medicine in the orthodontic industry. The future of orthodontics is customization and digital workflow and we are excited to see the continued enhancement in patient care through this funding.”
LightForce says it understands that every patient’s teeth are unique. Traditional braces usually mean lots of adjustments and longer treatment times. Instead, LightForce’s custom approach tackles these issues. Thanks to the personalized approach, patients will discover there is less need for adjustments, resulting in shorter treatment times, fewer appointments, and better outcomes than traditional braces. A recent peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Clinical Orthodontics showed that LightForce cases finished 45% faster with 41% fewer scheduled appointments than conventional bracket cases.
Anticipating its growth trajectory, LightForce emerges as a benchmark in today’s job market, gearing up to unveil a range of job openings, especially in the sales and manufacturing sectors. Candidates can find upcoming roles on the company’s official career portal. This proactive approach by newcomers like LightForce is a refreshing contrast, especially when, as reported by 3DPrint.com in recent months, numerous companies in the 3D printing realm have faced layoffs. Whether due to restructuring or uncertain economic conditions, this wave of layoffs has impacted big names and startups, not just in the 3D printing sector but across numerous industries, in the post-pandemic landscape, impacting many individuals. In an industry full of challenges, LightForce’s choice to hire shows it’s finding a way forward, even amidst a shifting market landscape.
Images courtesy of LightForce Orthodontics
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