KeyPrint Precision 3D Printing Resins
A small handful of European and Asian manufacturers have served the dental 3D printing market with printable materials over the past few years, but one American company is ready to get involved in a big way.
Keystone Industries, a longtime manufacturer of materials for dentistry and other industries, is releasing its KeyPrint line, which includes printable resins for stone models, surgical guides, and more. “A number of factors drove us into this project,” says Keystone Industries’ Dental President Ira Rosenau. “Some were industry-driven, some were driven by a desire to protect what we already had from a shifting landscape, and some involved finding ways to work in advanced dental materials to complement our existing products.”
Keystone has been successful selling acrylics, mouth guards, laminates, and other laboratory products, manufacturing materials at its sprawling facility in Gibbstown, New Jersey. Manufacturing printable resins was a natural fit. “Our core competencies are material manufacturing, chemical blending, and chemically-complex formulations, particularly in photopolymers on the cosmetic fingernail coating side of our business,” Rosenau says. “We have some very natural competencies that dovetail into this 3D realm. We have 100 years of experience as a dental manufacturer and supplier, primarily of consumable materials. On the cosmetic nail side, we have been making scaled, biocompatible light-curable photopolymers for 25-30 years. The difference between a fingernail gel coating and a 3D printing resin is not that significant; they are close technologically. We wanted to leverage that significant scientific manufacturing capability.”
In order to ensure that this venture met Keystone’s high standards for quality, the company has taken a methodical approach. The first 6 months were spent analyzing the landscape—technologies, players, etc. “We had to resist the urge to leap into the void,” Rosenau says. “We stood back at the precipice of the void, figuring out what was happening before jumping in. We considered quickly bringing an OEM resin to the market, but at the end of the day, we are a materials manufacturer. We considered offering a printer to the marketplace, and we would certainly like to have a full solution because resins go hand-in-glove with machines, but as we started looking at it, we realized there is a whole lot about commercializing the hardware that is outside of our key strengths. High-end resins are right in our wheelhouse. We continue to talk to printer companies about partnerships and private-label opportunities, but selling a 3D printer is not the focus of our strategy. We focused on quality resin manufacturing. Our resins are formulated with top-end materials, which results is an excellent printed product.”
Keystone’s formulation team focused on understanding cure kinetics and cure chemistries. “The cure processes and controlling the results are extremely important,” Rosenau says. The result has been a high-end KeyPrint product that compares more than favorably to the competition.
Keystone is in discussions with potential OEM and private-label partners, but the company also is releasing the KeyPrint line for open-source machines. “We are making sure our KeyPrint resins are validated to work with multiple printer platforms,” Rosenau says. “We have seen a lot of good, interesting 3D printers being developed. Equipment manufacturers see the opportunity in dentistry.”
Conversely, materials development has been limited to only a few companies, mostly abroad. Keystone’s resins are 100% formulated and produced in the US, which can help a laboratory logistically because overseas delivery times and import fees are not factors. “We have years of experience as an American, trusted, compliant manufacturer,” Rosenau says.
Keystone has devoted a significant amount of time and resources to learning what other benefits laboratories look for in 3D printable resins. “We wanted to understand what was really driving end-user decisions and preferences,” Rosenau says. “A lot of our product performance differentiators dovetailed with what the marketplace wants.” The KeyPrint line includes a wide range of products, a few of which could make a particularly significant impact immediately.
For example, while stone model resin is a product that is already somewhat commoditized in the dental laboratory market, Keystone’s stone model material has patent-pending technology to provide hardness and stiffness that result in a better-quality, more detailed print than current options on the market. “It is not a unique application, but we took a unique approach to the formulation,” Rosenau says. It results in a model that is “ dimensionally-stable, exceptionally hard and with a very smooth surface.”
Keystone’s surgical guide material is stronger than others without brittleness, and is very transparent and polishable. Rosenau observed that, “when it comes to surgical guides and splint material, the users want transparency, strength, and flexibility, and we think we have done really well in those areas with our material.” Keystone’s soft splint material balances stiffness and flexibility. “The soft splint material for retainers and night guards is probably the one application that draws the most interest when we talk to people, because it is different from what is on the market now,” Rosenau says. “The user will not find it uncomfortable to use because of its give and flexibility.”
While Keystone has been developing the KeyPrint line for several years, Rosenau knows this is just the beginning. “Our next step is to continue to find the right partners and promote visibility,” he says. “We will continue to add to our lineup of open-source printers as we validate them. We continue to develop the next wave of materials, such as direct print aligners, direct printed mouth guards, temporary crown-and-bridge materials, and denture base materials. 3D printing in dentistry is here and it’s here to stay. It’s not going anywhere. It will only continue to grow.”