A 3D printer is one of the most versatile technologies around, and these systems can do a lot more than produce dental models and restorations.
It’s safe to say that over the course of the past decade 3D printing has advanced to the point where the technology is not only a vital part of many modern dental laboratories but a foundation for the future of the industry.
Perhaps the ideal technology for meeting the needs of dental labs, 3D printers allow for rapid production of small, customized parts with a high degree of detail and accuracy. With different printing systems capable of printing in wax, polymers, ceramics, and metals, the technology is already able to meet most of the needs of dental labs when it comes to the production of dental prosthetics and the various parts and pieces needed to fabricate them.
But a 3D printer is one of the most versatile technologies in the dental laboratory industry. These systems are limited only by their build volumes and material options, and even with those limitations, there are numerous other applications for 3D printers that might be of interest to dental lab professionals. Here are 5 other things you can print on your lab’s 3D printer.
Our lives are filled with machines. Machines have parts, many of them small. Those parts break and when they do, tracking down a replacement can be a challenge. In many cases the broken parts are small pieces of plastic or metal, and in either case most printers have a compatible material that could be used to create a replacement. All that’s needed is a 3D render file to send to the printer. Even better, online resources with free or low cost 3D printable files for replacement parts can be found on sites including myminifactory.com, thingiverse.com, and traceparts.com.
Signage and Labels
Whether you want to add some branding to a public facing area of your lab or you just want to create some custom labels to keep things organized, your 3D printer can be a fun tool to produce something unique. These could be a 3D render of your logo, or simply some bright, 3-dimensional labels to help keep your operation organized.
Personal Protective Equipment
This might be one area where a lot of dental labs already have some experience. During the past year many labs printed faceshields, respirators, and other protective supplies to help their communities overcome shortages. As supplies of these critical items have begun to catch up with demand, dental labs can still use their existing technology to produce small batches of these items if they’re needed on short notice.
Custom Bench Set Ups
Getting your workspace just right is always important, but sometimes finding a way to put every tool, resource, and other supply at your fingertips can be a challenge. With a 3D printer this can be solved. If you need a unique place to hold ceramic brushes or burs, or if an exhaust hose requires a custom solution, or you need a stand to keep an iPad or a speaker near your bench, the 3D printer is a great resource. If what you need to perfect your workspace doesn’t exist, design your ideal solution and let the printer make it real.
Art, Toys, and Games
Your 3D printer doesn’t have to be an all work and no play machine. Sure, it’s great if your lab is busy enough to keep the printer working nonstop, but if you have some downtime, the printer is a great way to produce small games, puzzles, and even custom artistic designs. Files for many of these things are available on the same sites with spare parts files, and whether working with pre-existing files or creating your own, working on these items can be great practice to enhance your 3D printing chops. Plus, when the printing is finished, you have something exciting to play with or look at.