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    10 things you need to know about 3D printing

    3D printing can seem like it's ripped from the pages of a sci-fi novel. Here's what you need to know.

    3D printing can seem like it's ripped from the pages of a sci-fi novel. Here's what you need to know.

    “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”

    Fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation no doubt remember Captain Jean Luc Picard’s favorite drink, ordered from his Replicator—a device that could make anything from seemingly nothing.

    OK: No, Replicators are not the newest and latest piece of technology released this year. However, we’ve got something else: 3D printers are the 21st Century’s baby step toward the 24th Century’s Replicator.

    And for the dental industry, they represent a slice of science fiction, seemingly come to life.

    We spoke with two leaders in the 3D printing industry for a current snapshot of the industry, and to learn about the innovative things that we will be able to do in the future.

    1. It’s the dawn of a new age

    The output component for CAD/CAM was traditionally—if the word “traditional” can be used in a discussion of CAD/CAM—the mill. 3D printers have started to take their place for some workflows, with seemingly constant evolution.

    “It’s so exciting, what’s happening in 3D printing,” says Nick Azzara, Chief Officer Sales and Marketing of BEGO USA. “The cost of these machines is becoming reasonable, and, the ease-of-use and the versatility has expanded in an enormous way.”

    Must-read: 5 ways a 3D printer can help your lab—right NOW

    The modernization in 3D printing seems to make the time ripe for labs to adopt the technology.

    “For any size lab to start looking at a 3D printer, it’s more practical today than ever before,” says Azzara.

    2. The future might sound crazy, but it’s real—and it’s right around the corner

    When first introduced to dental labs, 3D printers just made components that were used in the construction of the final restorations, but were not used for the final products, themselves. Ultimately, the goal is for 3D printing produce those objects.

    We are getting closer and closer to that day, and some items can be printed for temporary use.

    “There is only one future ahead of us, and that would be printing end-user parts,” says Avi Cohen, Director of Global Dental at Stratasys. “For example, if you go to the dentist and you need a provisional restoration, or a temporary crown, or bridge, [you will be able to ] print those, and don’t have them done by a traditional work form.” 

     

     

     

    Even more impressively, one day we might see restorations printed from high quality materials that we don’t normally associate with 3D printing.

    “The future for that would be printing teeth from zirconia, matching the color and shape from the patient’s mouth,” he says.

    3. It goes beyond the cool factor

    While there is certainly a gee-whiz appeal to 3D printing, it isn’t just the cool new toy to impress your friends. Integrating a 3D printer helps labs not only be more productive, but can also help labs become more fully invested in digital dentistry.

    Free webinar: How 3D printing can advance your lab

    “We think 3D printing is crucial in many ways to a dental lab,” Azzara says. “In many aspects, it’s the missing component that empowers labs to take the next steps into digital pathways.”

    Thanks to both innovation and lower costs, 3D printing is very accessible to many labs.

    “Unfortunately, up until this point, it’s been a challenge to fully integrate a 3D printer into that digital workflow, but now that is changing,” Azzara observes.

    Next page: The planets are aligning ...

    Robert Elsenpeter
    Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics. He is also the author ...

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