An Interview with Phil Carlino of Formlabs
Inside Dental Technology spoke with Phil Carlino, Head of Dental Sales – North America for Formlabs, about the latest developments in 3D printing for dental laboratories.
Inside Dental Technology (IDT): What are some of the most exciting developments in 3D printing that you are seeing right now?
Phil Carlino: The most exciting developments revolve around printable materials. We have started to transition from 3D printing disposable parts for use in analog fabrication of dental products to printing the final parts. Dental professionals are demanding more biocompatible materials that can be used to directly print product without a secondary process. On the hardware side, the most notable developments involve the accuracy of the more affordable types of technology. Being able to really deliver precision and consistency is so important, and these printers continue to get better with each new generation.
IDT: Why is 3D printing such a promising technology to supplement milling?
Carlino: The reduction in labor costs is one of the most important elements of 3D printing, because labor can be one of the larger expenses for any laboratory. Overall costs of the technology are important as well, but so many of the traditional manufacturing processes still require individuals to perform a significant amount of post-processing such as polishing and finishing to create what would be seen as an acceptable part. Now, we are creating those parts with minimal, if any, post-processing and really reducing the costs that a laboratory incurs. The ease of use is greater, and you can also turn around these parts faster when there is less work on the back end.
IDT: In an industry that is so small business-heavy, how significant is it for there to be fairly robust printers available for less than $6,000?
Carlino: Lowering the barrier on the cost of entry for equipment to an affordable price point is critical to the future of the laboratory business as we know it. This allows individual laboratory owners—whether one person working out of their home or a team of a dozen—to compete on both quality and cost. It really levels the playing field. We are already seeing a significant level of consolidation in both the laboratory industry and the dental industry as a whole, so we feel introducing affordable technology will allow small and medium-sized laboratories to compete for a longer period of time.
IDT: What are some of the most important things that a laboratory should look for when buying a printer?
Carlino: The first thing is identifying what they will be producing to be able to generate the proper ROI. Some laboratory owners know 3D printing but are really not sure exactly where or how to implement it. Once that has been done, look at the actual equipment, because there are many more options than there were even 3 years ago. It has quickly become a fairly competitive market, and there is a tremendous amount of confusion regarding where the real value is. People generally come to us and ask about speed and cost, because those are two things they can easily identify. However, there are so many other important factors, such as consistency, accuracy, individual material costs, and support from the company to back up their product. Formlabs is an exclusively 3D printing company; that is what we do and what we focus on every single day. That makes us have the highest knowledge base on both customer support and sales and marketing teams. Understanding the companies you work with is important both short and long term.
IDT: What is most noteworthy about the Formlabs Form 3B printer?
Carlino: The Form 3B has been a revolutionary product for us in the sense of being not just another printer that is under $6,000. It is a printer that works consistently, accurately, and predictably, day over day over day. That is not something that many other affordable desktop printers can promote. The Form 3B also has unique features such as remote printing. This printer was conceived from the idea of understanding what the dental market needs and the fact that these printers are not just hobby toys; they truly are production pieces of equipment that are critical to businesses’ success day over day, and ultimately the dentists and patients end up relying on them for treatment.
IDT: What can we expect to see from Formlabs in the near future?
Carlino: Formlabs is really excited to expand its abilities with the Form 3L, which is a large production printer that significantly increases the throughput for production customers, with a build platform capable of accommodating 30 to 40 models in a print cycle. That type of technology being introduced at an affordable price point is definitely something I’m incredibly excited about. Other key developments include the biocompatible materials, the development of those applications, and how they are really going to increase profitability for users. Our partnership with Bego on permanent crown material is something we are incredibly excited about in that realm. The market is really excited to have a brand-new solution for creating end parts.