A 3D Printed Smile

Everyone desires a set of straight, beautiful, white teeth but how many people who have undergone the process to get there know that inside their mouth are some of the first products of a new industrial revolution?  You could be flashing a 3D printed smile without even knowing it.

According to the April 30, 2016 issue of The Economist, "tens of millions of dental crowns, bridges and orthodontic braces have now been produced with the help of additive ​manufacturing, popularly known as 3D printing."  

The once common thought of a hobbyist printing off small plastic trinkets at home is being replaced by an industrial revolution.  A projected $5,200,000,000 revolution where the manufacturing machines can cost up to $1,000,000​.

For decades dentist have relied upon a process called "investment casting".  This involves creating an individual model of a person's tooth, often in was, enclosing it in a ceramic casing, melting out the wax and then pouring molten metal into the cavity left behind.  When the cast is split open, the new metal tooth is removed.  It is fiddly, labor-intensive and not always accurate.  

3D Printed Smile

Things are done differently with available 3D printers.  The dentist can now take a 3D scan of the patients teeth.  Digitally send the scan into a 3D manufacturing company like Renishaw, a British engineering company.  They have a plant that is equipped with 3D printers.  Each printer produces a batch of more than 200 dental crowns and bridges.

The machines use a laser to steadily melt succesive layers of a cobalt-chrome alloy powder into the required shapes.  The process can take either to ten hours but the printers run unattended and make each individual tooth to a design that is unique to every patient.  Once complete, the parts are shipped to dental laboratories where craftsmen add a layer porcelain.  Some researchers are now working on 3D printing the porcelain, too.  ​

Renishaw 3D Printed Teeth

3D Printed Smile - Benefits of 3D printing vs. Tradition Dentures

  • Reduced maintenance costs for expensive furnances and casting equipment
  • Less wasted alloy
  • No wasted wax
  • No wasted investment material
  • Improved health and safety features
  • Potential reduction in environmental impact due to waste reduction
  • Ability to recall, change design and remanufacture, without the need to restart the entire process
  • Share designs between technicaians and clinicians via internet to help productivty
  • Shorter process workflow for patients

Dental SG Resin - Class 1 Biocompatible Resin for Surgical Guides

Formlabs Dental Resin

Formlabs has developed a Class 1 biocompatible Dental resin for creating precise surgical guides and similar applications.  Tuned for accuracy and precision, the resin is designed to directly print surgical and pilot drill guides.  

Portions of this post reference The Economist | April 30, 2016 issue


Standing on the forefront of the 3D Printing Revolution. The future is here and I'm just a 3D Printeer along for the ride.

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