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    7 ways 3D printing is changing everything

    How CAD/CAM and 3D printing are reshaping the dental industry.

    CAD/CAM changed the face of dental laboratory work about 15 years ago, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a lab that hasn’t heard about CAD/CAM, isn’t considering CAD/CAM or doesn’t already own a CAD/CAM system. And while the basic system is revolutionary, it has continued to grow and evolve.

    One such advancement comes in the form of 3D printing. Labs can derive a lot of use from 3D printers and their prices are coming down, so now might be a good time to consider adding the technology to one’s CAD/CAM solution.   

    01 | Internal workflows are improved.

    At the lab, 3D printing is widely used to streamline and simplify workflows. Chiefly, it is used for model making. In the past, of course, a model would have to be handmade from stone. While this method has been used by laboratories for decades, it is not ideal. It takes time to create a model,  pour it up and wait for it to set. Functionally, these types of models are not optimal because they lack some level of accuracy.

    3D-printed models ameliorate all of this, because they can be taken directly from a doctor-supplied intraoral scan. Those scans provide a higher level of accuracy than conventional impression. It does take some time to print, however if multiple models are being printed at the same time on the same tray, a time savings is achieved.  

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    02 | Surgical guides are a source of income.

    At this point in time, the only product that dental labs can make a profit from is 3D printing surgical guides. These are plastic devices that are designed to go over patient’s gums and existing teeth to allow doctors to precisely and accurately place and drill holes for implants. Surgical guides also give the doctor the precise location, angle and depth for proper implant placement.

    In the past, these devices were difficult and time-consuming for the lab to make. As useful as they could be for implant surgeons, their difficulty and tediousness lead to their not being used very often.

    There are, of course, specific types of materials required for these devices. The polymers cannot be brittle and they must be approved by the FDA for use in patients’ mouths. Happily, however, the materials for this application are available, thus making easy 3D printing, based on an intraoral scan.

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    03 | Better your burnouts

    Creating castables is easier and more efficient using 3D printable burnout resins. Because of the detail required for dental applications, castings must meet exacting dimensional requirements, and can be very demanding. That process is simplified through 3D printing.

    With castable resins and 3D printing, labs can easily fabricate detailed metal parts (be it a framework, inlay, onlay, and so forth) through the investment casting process.

    3D printable burnout resins are used to print the desired object. These resins are created for optimal burnout performance. Once the object is 3D printed, it is placed in a mold which is then put it into a furnace for burning out.

    From here, the process follows the same steps to complete the object’s investment.

    The advantage, obviously, is an overall simplification of the object’s creation. The object can be created as part of the CAD/CAM workflow,  rather than being constructed using conventional, analog methods. The resulting object can be more detailed and precise.


    Continue to page two for more...

    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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