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Inside Dental Technology
November 2019
Volume 10, Issue 11

IDT Goes In-Depth on New NADL Survey

The National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL) recently commissioned a survey on 3D printing in dental laboratories with Valmont Research, which handles the NADL's annual Business Survey and Materials and Equipment Survey. Inside Dental Technology spoke with Greg Drevenstedt, PhD, Owner/Project Director of Valmont Research, about the new survey.

Inside Dental Technology (IDT): What were the goals of this survey?

Greg Drevenstedt, PhD: We have asked a question in the last several NADL Materials and Equipment Surveys about whether laboratories use 3D printers or plan to acquire one. Between 2014 and 2018, the percentage of laboratories that said they use 3D printers has increased from 11% to 35%. Seeing that 3D printers are becoming more commonplace in laboratories and all indications point to further adoption in the future, the NADL wanted to do a deeper dive on to see what types of laboratories are using 3D printers, how they are using them, what is driving that adoption, the brands that are being used, and more. We tried to include as many brands as possible, but more were written in, so we ended up with a total of approximately 30 covered in the survey. That gives a sense of what the 3D printer marketplace is like right now, and of some of the issues that laboratories are dealing with in terms of purchase criteria, as well as any issues with ongoing use, such as calibration, down time, service contracts, etc.

IDT: Whom did the survey primarily target?

Drevenstedt: We sent the survey to all NADL members, but we were targeting current users. We clearly stated that the survey was about 3D printers, so there was an element of self-selection, and then the 31% of respondents who said they do not currently use 3D printing for any of their production processes did not qualify for the subsequent questions. A more accurate gauge of 3D printing adoption within the entire industry will be in the Materials and Equipment Survey, which will be released later this year.

IDT: What was your biggest takeaway from this survey?

Drevenstedt: It is a very crowded marketplace with a wide range of offerings. We did not delve specifically into individual printers' pricing and features. The sheer number of brands, however, is an indicator of the state of the market. Additionally, we segmented laboratories by number of employees and volume of 3D printed cases they do each day, and we did observe differentiation among brands based on those factors—particularly high volume vs low volume—so, while we did not ask specific questions about features or pricing, some brands clearly cater toward certain types of laboratories. Some are more affordable and offer an easier point of entry for smaller laboratories, while others are more expensive, fully featured, and can accommodate a higher scale of production. With that wide range of companies providing 3D printers, it is probably fairly confusing for laboratory owners and managers because the market has not really sorted itself out and there is not a lot of clear differentiation yet between some of these brands.

IDT: If you were to ask further questions, what might they be?

Drevenstedt: It would be interesting to do a follow-up survey. Now that we have gathered baseline information, it would be interesting to look closer at features and benefits—what key features attracted laboratories to particular printer brands? We did ask about purchasing criteria, so we technically could compare those responses with the brands that those respondents said they use, but that is not the most reliable way to analyze the data.

IDT: Did anything stand out to you beyond the data?

Drevenstedt: We included net promoter score in the survey to get a sense of laboratories' satisfaction with brands, and there were significant differences in those scores. What is not in the research report is the fact that we asked open-ended questions about particular brands, and that really did raise some issues that would be interesting to explore further in future surveys. Some laboratories reported a high level of satisfaction with certain brands, while others expressed frustration with those same brands regarding calibration and ease of use. This survey definitely raised some questions that are worth pursuing further to develop a better understanding of how laboratories are using 3D printers.

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