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Published on May 11, 2017

3D Printing for the Dental Industry

  • 3D Printing has been used extensively in the dental industry.
  • In dental 3D printing is being used in crowns and bridges as well as aligners.
  • Metal and polymers are being used in dental 3D printing.
  1. The dental industry was an early adopter of 3D printing. The industry has made millions of bridges and crowns through 3D printing over the past years. In addition 3D printed dental aligners have had a mayor impact on the market.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering for Dental

The most common 3D printing process used for dental is Direct Metal Laser Sintering. DMLS also called powder bed fusion and Laser Cusing has been used to make millions of 3D printed bridges and crowns.

Traditionally it has been difficult to get a new 3D printed part to print well in DMLS. Each new shape had to be tried a number of times before the right supports could be generated and designed for it. In dental however research and testing coupled with the types of parts meant that first time failure rates were low.

This has let companies produce continual builds of tens of thousands of dental parts per day in titanium and cobalt chrome. The software and labor for this process has been improved, post processing equipment has been developed and optimized as well. This has lead to prices in metal 3D printed parts dropping every year for this application.

Stereolithography and DLP for dentalĀ 

Other technologies that have been used to 3D print dental parts are Stereolithography and DLP. Stereolithography (SLA) and DLP have been used in dental aligners and molds and are now widely used in that industry.

The Invisalign dental aligners are the most famous example of 3D printing being used at scale in the dental industry. In the case of Invisalign the 3D print is used as a mold which then becomes the aligner. Invisalign was able to conquer the dental market in short order with its aligners because these unique products were inexpensive to make with 3D printing.

3D printing has also been used for oral surgery to make unique inserts or surgical guides. The technology has also been used for temporary crowns for example. Below you can see a build tray of dental molds made with an Envisiontec machine.

Envisiontec is a DLP process that uses light to harden a resin. A projector in a bath of resin illuminates an entire layer at a time and hardens it. With Envisiontec one can quickly make very detailed and accurate shapes. These are often used for lost wax casting. The combination of lost wax casting and 3D printing is a tried and true one. To make a batch of molds for lost wax casting is very cost effective and one can make several hundred molds a day depending on the machine. Envisiontec machines come in all sizes and are well suited for use in semi-office environments.