July 2018
Volume 9, Issue 7

Next-Gen 3D Printing

New concepts and affordability are top priority

Jeffry Tobon, CDT

Three-dimensional printing has become such a big part of the dental field that a day doesn't pass when the words "3D printing" aren't uttered. The number of machines and applications has increased exponentially. We started with printing copings, moved on to printing models, and then wondered about using 3D printing for verification purposes. Now dentures, surgical guides, long-term crowns, orthodontic appliances, metal frameworks, and myriad end-use products can all be produced using this technology. It would be an understatement to say that 3D printing has taken the dental industry by storm and is definitely here to stay. What are the latest trends in this arena?

Price is inevitably at the top of the list. Affordability has been key not only to driving rapid adoption by the laboratory industry but also to triggering interest on the clinical side. It's the keen interest from clinical dentistry that has sparked the attention of 3D-technology companies and is helping drive down the cost without sacrificing accuracy. Kick-started by Formlabs, the downward pricing trend has now pushed major players in the 3D printing arena like Stratasys and 3D Systems to follow suit and introduce their own lines of affordable printers in order to compete. Even newcomers to the market such as EvoDent understand that pricing is key; EvoDent enters the industry with two new industrial-grade desktop printers, one priced under $12,000.

While additive manufacturing was once dominated by stereolithography (SLA) and digital light processing (DLP) technologies, new 3D concepts have risen to meet the increasing demands  of the industry. One example is a printer launched by Structo that uses a new technology called mask stereolithography, or MSLA. This technology allows Structo's flagship printer, DentaForm, to achieve record-breaking speeds at 50-µm (XY) resolution. MSLA technology utilizes a panel light source, array, and a digital mask to control which regions of the printing plane are illuminated by the light source from below.

Truly unique and revolutionary is the Structo Velox printer with autonomous post-processing built into the print process. This is a next-generation technology that I believe others will adopt and advance in the future. The system combines three stages in one print cycle. Print, wash, and cure are combined on a rotating carousel, fitting all three functions into a single, small-footprint, automated system. Combining all of the steps in an automated process not only allows for consistency but also minimizes the manual labor traditionally associated with post-processing steps.

A 3D concept that has taken the industry by storm is Carbon's breakthrough digital light synthesis (DLS) process driven by groundbreaking CLIP technology and programmable liquid resins. CLIP uses digital light projection in combination with oxygen-permeable optics to offer unprecedented production speeds. Traditional additive approaches to photo polymerization typically produce weak, brittle parts. Carbon overcomes this by embedding a second heat-activated programmable chemistry in its materials. This results in high-resolution parts with engineering-grade mechanical properties. The heart of the CLIP process is the "dead zone"-a thin liquid interface of uncured resin between the window and the printing part. Light passes through the dead zone, curing the resin above it to form a solid part. Resin flows beneath the curing part as the print progresses, maintaining the "continuous liquid interface" that powers CLIP.

Speed, versatility, and scalability were on the minds of 3D Systems engineers while developing the new NextDent 5100, another continuous-liquid production technology concept. This revolutionary, high-speed Figure 4 3D-printing technology combines with NextDent's broad portfolio of dental materials to offer multiple applications, resulting in unparalleled accuracy, repeatability, productivity, and a reduced total cost of operation. NextDent offers an array of 3D-printing materials for a wide variety of applications-from temporaries to surgical guides to digital dentures. This company is truly focused on meeting every need in the dental field via 3D printing. On the horizon are tooth-shaded crown-and-bridge temporary materials that I think will be a game-changer in our industry.

EnvisionTEC's Vida desktop printer utilizes Continuous Digital Light Manufacturing technology (cDLM). This printer is well suited for small professional laboratories and practices and is capable of printing a wide range of dental applications. Its price range, speed, and technology are promising, offering build sizes up to 71.7 cubic inches and accuracy levels as detailed as 30 µm.

One of the unique aspects of these new continous-production 3D printing concepts is the delivery of outstanding surface quality on the final printed product, eliminating the "stair-step" surface quality visible with the SLA print process.

What will tomorrow bring? Maybe multiple networked printers, each printing the same or different products with robot-assisted production. Sound otherworldly? It's a sign of the future, but it is already here.

Tech Showcase

This product showcase spotlights the latest innovations introduced onto the marketplace in the past year. Each of these products demonstrates unique new advances, improvements, or expansion of applications within the additive manufacturing landscape. We celebrate all the new additive innovations that have been and will be introduced this year. A complete showcase of products in this category will be published in our 2018 Product iNavigator in November.

NextDent 5100

This high-speed 3D printer from 3D Systems addresses the broadest range of indications, redefining the dental workflow for improved accuracy (within 50 µm), repeatability, and productivity with lower total cost of operation.

KeyPrint

Keystone Industries' high-quality dental 3D-printing resins are made for use in DLP printers using wavelengths from 365 to 405 nm, yielding accurate, stable, and strong printed parts.

EvoDent S and E Series

Offering print speeds of 20 mm to 40 mm per hour on all models, the E and S Series from EvoDent can print 10+ dental indications using any of more than 40 different materials.

Structo Velox

The Structo Velox features a patented fully autonomous postprocessing system to streamline appliance manufacturing, with three stages-print, wash, and cure-on a rotating carousel, all in one small-footprint system.

Diplo

With dual build areas and an accuracy of 36.5 µm, this printer from Ackuretta Technologies brings high-precision, rapid 3D printing to dental professionals in an open material system ideal for a wide range of dental applications.

Carbon Partnerships

Partnering with DENTCA and DREVE, Carbon offers the first FDA-cleared (Class II) materials for 3D-printed dentures—DENTCA Denture Base II and DENTCA Denture Teeth for Carbon printers—and two new materials, DREVE FotoDent® gingiva and DREVE FotoDent® tray for Carbon printers.

SolFlex

VOCO printers' combination of Flex-Vat Technology, Sensor Monitored Production, and a moving DLP unit increases speed, resolution, efficiency, and reliability while decreasing production time, costs, and variables.

cara Print 4.0

The cara Print 4.0 from Kulzer is a 3D DLP printer that produces dental appliances, layer by layer, using high-quality photopolymer materials with a variable layer thickness of 30-100 µm for fast and accurate restorations.

Asiga MAX

Asiga MAX, available through Whip Mix, is made to offer exceptional productivity in a small footprint. With 62-µm HD print precision, MAX is optimized for orthodontics, crown and bridge, surgical guides, dental models, custom trays, and more.

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