Simultaneous 6-axis 3D Printing
Daniel Alter, MSc, MDT, CDT
Firstly, I would like to wish all our friends, supporters, and readers a very happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. With the new year upon us, let us endeavor to look down the road to see what exciting innovations may be available for us in 2020. One such technology that could be a real game-changer within the additive manufacturing space is eloquently called free-dimensional simultaneous 6-axis 3D printing. It involves robotics with free and unobstructed movement, and is considered to be the first to offer "true" 3D printing. This concept was first introduced in the FormNext2019 conference in Frankfurt, Germany, in November 2019 by a company called Free-D Printing (freedprinting.de).
This type of printing could eliminate the bothersome overhangs often present in conventional 3D printed output, as well as the need for supports, which must be eliminated during the post processing phase, thereby taking up precious time and resources. The idea is that the print head moves around the object as it prints, creating geometries difficult to produce using other digital workflows. Furthermore, while the act of nesting the object on a build plate can sometimes cause difficulties with regards to placement, orientation, and dimensions, this technology would not require the same process since it would no longer print on a build plate. Ideal for smaller objects and those that require a high level of detail, free-dimensional simultaneous 6-axis printing is a technology to watch for, especially in the fabrication of implant-supported and fixed dental restorations, and utilizing diverse materials like resins, metals, and more. As with many innovations, the proof of concept for the technology traditionally brings forward new energy for developments in materials and indications focused on providing enhanced functions and restorative outcomes.
The 3D printing that is commonly utilized in today's dental laboratories can accommodate mass producing objects like models within a single print job. However, this new technology deviates from that workflow and focuses more on the individual object and process. It could provide an entirely new way of producing dental restorations that is truly automated and genuinely 3D.
The dental laboratory of the future will indisputably be utilizing additive manufacturing in several modalities. One can envision a workflow initiated by a technician designing dental restorations and sending files to a battery of individual free-dimensional printing robots, printing the prosthetics with heightened detail. It would require no post-processing; rather, once the simultaneous 6-axis printing is done, the dental technologist could simply retrieve the restoration or substructure and finish it in the usual way, whether by polishing, overlaying with other materials, and/or staining and glazing.
It is my great honor and pleasure to elevate and inspire with knowledge.