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Inside Dental Technology
June 2023
Volume 14, Issue 6

Evolving Hardware Makes More Possible

Having a clear purpose helps maximize printing technology

Michael D. Scherer, DMD, MS

As a prosthodontist with a full laboratory in my practice, I have seen incredible developments with 3D printing over the past 10 years, and it is just getting started. The No. 1 application for 3D printing is still models. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to greater utilization is clinicians who have not adopted digital technology because they are skeptical of the unknown. Laboratories need to continue guiding clinicians, and clinicians should be receptive to working with new technology.

What are the considerations involved when choosing between DLP and other types of technology?

The first question you need to ask involves what you want to make with the 3D printer. If you plan to use it only for models, then the most important aspect is fidelity and accuracy because you are relying on that model to be a very good representation of the patient's mouth. Once you have established that, do not get caught up in DLP vs SLA, etc. I have found from experience that any of those technologies can produce high levels of quality, and any of them can come up short in certain areas. It depends on how the printer is designed. Some printers produce excellent surgical guides and bite guards but may not perform as well producing crown-and-bridge models, and vice versa.

How important are other factors such as build plate size?

We tend to get preoccupied with build size and speed. While those are undoubtedly important factors for high-production, volume laboratories, they still must be balanced with other factors. For example, one machine with a large build platform might print 13% faster than another, but if you are unsure of whether the models at the edge of the build platform are as precise or accurate as those in the center, then that extra 13% speed does not provide any advantage. Accuracy, ease of use, and reliability are my three priorities in a printer.

What are the advantages of open vs closed systems?

I talk a lot about flexibility being an important trend, but truthfully, I have always been open to either option. Both are completely acceptable. I have completely open printers and completely closed ones, and I love them both. The closed system is so reliable and so fast; because of that efficiency, I do not mind being limited to that manufacturer's resins. Meanwhile, I can use my open printer for anything, and it might not be as fast, but it is equally reliable. If I need something quick, such as a same-day denture, a closed system allows me to capitalize on super-fast 3D printing. Conversely, if I want to utilize the latest ceramic materials, I need to use my open system, and it just may take a little longer.

Bottom Line

The market is fairly well developed, with most options priced similarly, so technicians and clinicians are looking for solutions. For some, the solution is a completely flexible workflow; for others, it is super-fast printing with supports that just peel away, or perhaps something with a special build platform for crowns. Those are all solutions. We are all looking for the golden printer that can do everything, but it does not exist. We all want the "best" 3D printer, but that term is relative to each person. Figure out what you want to make, and go from there.

About the Author

Michael D. Scherer, DMD, MS, is the chief clinical officer at Zest Dental Solutions and a private practitioner in Sonora, California.

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