3D Printed MouthPad Transforms How We Control Our Digital World

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A bold new startup, Augmental, has made a significant breakthrough thanks to the path paved by the increasingly mature dental 3D printing industry. The firm has cleverly utilized dental resins, workflows, and machines, pioneered by the dental 3D printing industry, to create a groundbreaking device: a 3D printed, hands-free touchpad. Named the MouthPad, it allows users to control electronic devices using their tongue. It’s a custom 3D printed mouthpiece equipped with a touch-sensitive pad. You can glide your tongue over it to drag, drop, and even perform left and right clicks. Head movements add extra input options, and future plans include incorporating sucking and biting gestures for additional controls. This wireless MouthPad, which easily syncs with PCs and other devices, can be recharged in a docking station.

The MouthPad

The MouthPad’s use of dental 3D printing materials ensures durability for extended mouth usage. It’s versatile, compatible with MacOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android, opening up vast possibilities beyond gaming. Think of controlling lamps, doors, and security cameras through apps. This technology could be life-changing for those with limited limb movement, such as paraplegics or wheelchair users, and even beneficial for bedridden individuals in hospitals.

Enabling Technology

The MouthPad promises five hours of use on a two-hour charge. Purchasing the system begins with receiving an impression box to create a custom-fitted device, housing the electronics in a steel-encapsulated form. Currently, there’s a waitlist for this product, which has attracted over $1.2 million in investment. Its production, outsourced to Asiga, utilizes the Asiga Max printer and KeySplint Soft resin from Keystone, a 510K-cleared IIa resin, originally designed for night guards and splints.

Asiga’s printers, known for their reliability in dental and hearing aid labs, played a crucial role here. Augmental’s initial search for a production partner, rather than investing in a fleet of printers, is a trend among startups and established companies seeking scalable solutions. Asiga’s offering of production services exemplifies a smart approach to facilitating market entry.

The Near Adjacent

The 3D printing industry’s overlooked potential in developing products closely related to existing applications baffles me. Additive manufacturing is used to produce millions of hearing aids, but hardly any headphones; mouth guards remain uncommercialized at scale despite the massive production of molds for invisible aligners. The MouthPad exemplifies how repurposing familiar technologies can yield innovative products. The possibilities are vast: smart mouth guards predicting injuries, custom teeth whitening molds, durable guards for combat sports, oxygen-boosting training aids, night guards monitoring teeth grinding, and safer apnea guards, to name a few. Each represents a potential unicorn, rooted in the concept of personalizing devices for oral use using existing 3D printing platforms and resins.

Questions

Now I know what you’re thinking: “Joris, can the MouthPad double as a teeth-whitening device? Or perhaps, can it dispense vitamins for gamers deficient in sunlight exposure? And what about the implications of wearing a wireless device near your brain?” Many 3D printed dental devices are designed for temporary use; with the MouthPad, we might see devices residing in the mouth much longer, raising many unanswered questions. But one thing is clear: the MouthPad demonstrates the vast potential for innovation in 3D printing, exploring applications adjacent to what’s currently achievable.

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