Invisalign, the undisputed front-runner in the clear aligner industry, has taken a monumental leap forward by acquiring Cubicure, a pioneer in direct 3D printing solutions for polymer additive manufacturing (AM). Now complete, this strategic acquisition by Align Technology (Nasdaq: ALGN), the parent company of Invisalign, is a milestone in the evolution of orthodontic solutions, melding cutting-edge technology with industry-leading expertise. Renowned for its innovative Hot Lithography technology, Cubicure specializes in processing highly viscous resins to produce durable and temperature-resistant polymers, an ideal addition to Invisalign’s portfolio.
Commenting on the acquisition, Align Technology President and CEO Joe Hogan said, “The acquisition of Cubicure brings a talented team and unique cutting-edge technology into Align and will enable us to scale our 3D printing operations to eventually direct print millions of custom appliances per day. Direct 3D printing enables Align to create 3D printed solutions without the added step of first creating a mold, making 3D printing more sustainable and efficient. I am excited to take this important step in our relationship with Cubicure, which began several years ago as a joint development program.”
The integration of Cubicure is expected to significantly bolster Align’s strategic innovation roadmap and reinforce the capabilities of the Align Digital Platform. This platform supports the brand’s advanced printing, materials, and manufacturing processes. A notable inclusion in Align’s 3D printed product range, facilitated by this acquisition, is the Invisalign Palatal Expander system. This system represents Align’s incursion into direct 3D printed orthodontic devices, offering a more comfortable and clinically effective alternative to traditional palatal expanders, which help to widen a narrow upper jaw and correct dental conditions like crossbites and overcrowding.
Cubicure’s patented Hot Lithography technology, which employs a unique heating and coating mechanism, is key in processing highly viscous resins. This capability allows for the creation of exceptionally tough and temperature-resistant polymers. The precision of this 3D printing process enables the additive manufacturing of resilient components, marking a significant advancement in material quality and performance in the orthodontics field.
Legacy of Innovation and Growth
Align’s history is steeped in innovation and growth. Over its 26-year journey, Align has invested billions in state-of-the-art technologies, including advanced 3D printing, revolutionizing digital orthodontics. Its portfolio, featuring the Invisalign system, iTero intraoral scanners, and Exocad CAD/CAM software, symbolizes its commitment to pioneering technology-driven orthodontic solutions.
The company’s inaugural direct 3D printed orthodontic device, the Invisalign Palatal Expander system, offers a practical, patient-friendly alternative to conventional palatal expanders. Currently used by roughly 252,000 doctors globally, the company’s suite of products aims to improve patient outcomes.
“Align has invested billions of dollars in innovation over the past 27 years, including next-generation 3D printing technologies to process high-performance polymers,” said Align Senior Vice President of Product Research and Development, Srini Kaza. “We’ve been working with Cubicure for years, and I am thrilled that they are now officially employees of Align and members of our R&D organization. We’re at the beginning of this next wave of direct 3D printing additive manufacturing, and I believe we’re poised to transform the orthodontic industry again with our unprecedented ability to direct print devices.”
Although Align has actively expanded its technological horizons through several acquisitions since 2011, including Cadent, GL Dental Couture Limited, and exocad, this is the first time the brand has incorporated a 3D printed company into its fold. This move represents a major strategic step for Align and suggests a strategic focus on integrating advanced 3d printing into its product offering.
While Align continues to innovate and expand, particularly its foray into 3D printing technology, the clear aligner industry is experiencing significant changes. In particular, the closure of SmileDirectClub in 2023 marked a shift in the sector. Known for its direct-to-consumer model, SmileDirectClub contrasts with Invisalign’s approach, which has always prioritized professional, in-person care and fittings. The departure of SmileDirectClub from the market not only highlights the complexities inherent in the clear aligner market but also solidifies Invisalign’s role as a leading provider in this field.
Invisalign’s clear dental aligners, which gradually straighten teeth through sustained pressure, require changing every one to three weeks, with total treatment durations extending over several months. The absence of SmileDirectClub from the market further accentuates Invisalign’s role as a key player in orthodontic treatments. With its proven track record and the acquisition of Cubicure now boosting its capabilities, Invisalign could try to set new benchmarks in orthodontic care.
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