Filling the gap with 3D printing

June 8, 2017

How the EnvisionTEC Vida has helped one lab stay ahead of the technology curve.

The technology involved in 3D printing is quickly evolving for use in the dental industry, and with every new development in 3D printing comes a new facet of the technology for dental labs. EnvisionTEC’s 3D printers, such as the Vida, Vida Continuous Digital Light Manufacturing (cDLM), Vida Hi-Res and Vida Hi-Res Crown and Bridge, coupled with the company’s broad material library, allows lab technicians to print models and surgical guides to crowns and bridges.

According to EnvisionTEC, its technology is being “rapidly adopted by dentists, orthodontists and dental labs looking to lower costs, provide more convenient patient care and who desire tighter control over treatment plans.”

When EnvisionTEC first launched its Perfactory printers in 2002, it was one of the first 3D printer manufacturers to launch an affordable, portable, “personal factory” printer. Then in 2015, it launched the original Vida 3D printer, which was the first affordable 3D printer in its class to be conveyed in a compact desktop setting for use by dental labs. In turn, EnvisionTEC dove deeper into the niche segment of 3D printing created within the dental industry.

Since the Vida’s first launch, overall sales of 3D printers within the dental industry has grown more 75 percent. The Vida printers reportedly allow for more flexibility and freedom of movement compared to an intermediary while maintaining a high standard of accuracy across all components. They also boast a printing speed that is said to be 10 times greater than other Direct Light Projection (DLP) printers on the market as well as a fully automated, self-calibrating system and an integrated, embedded PC with Wi-Fi.

Related reading: EnvisionTEC selects Axsys Dental Solutions as distributor of 3D printers

How has the Vida affected client feedback?

Matthew Shafer is a clinician at Bay View Dental Laboratory, a family-owned business in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Shafer has used the EnvisionTEC Vida Hi-Res extensively in his work for the last year. Prior to his use of 3D printers, his lab used milling as its primary mode of restoration manufacturing. In many ways, the EnvisionTEC Vida has relieved, if not eradicated, the issues and concerns previously experienced by lab techs and doctors especially when it came to accuracy.

“When we milled our wax patterns, we had doctors specifically requesting us to hand wax their margins,” Shafer says. “That’s not the case today. Marginal accuracy is no longer a concern.”

Dental labs are embracing and implementing this technology and the systems associated with it thanks to their broad selection of materials for an extensive range of dental applications. The Vida is being integrated into the digital workflow adding ease of use for CAD/CAM software users.

“Our EnvisionTEC Vida has set the bar very high, strengthening and adding efficiency at critical stages of our fabrication process,” Shafer adds. “Other printers we’ve had the privilege to use have struggled to meet our high standards.”

Shafer believes that the Vida has made a tremendous impact on his lab, and other labs looking to break into 3D printing should seriously consider the Vida as a great option.

“The accuracy is comparable to our best hand-waxed margins,” he said. “The efficiency is very beneficial, but most importantly the consistency provided has made our Vida an invaluable part of the lab.”

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Lab investment and potential ROI

When it comes to making the investment, EnvisionTEC believes its 3D printers help to reduce the labor and material costs for dental labs while providing superior clinical quality and consistency within the manufacturing process. The company goes as far as to say that its technology helps domestic labs compete with the cost of offshore production.

While Shafer believes that his Vida was a great investment, he is cautiously optimistic regarding its return on investment. “Like many of our newer technologies, there seems to be a weak link somewhere limiting full potential,” Shafer says.

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Shafer chose the Vida because he felt it was the best combination of price point and accuracy for his lab after comparing 3D printers for dental applications. In his experience, the Vida is user-friendly, but it does come with a learning curve, which makes attention to detail essential. Once the technician is able to overcome that curve however, this equipment and technology is a game changer within the lab.

EnvisionTEC Vida and lab workflow

EnvisionTEC is dedicated to keeping its customers up to date on any software and material upgrades as they become available. The company also strives to enable a seamless workflow with CAD software like Dental Wings, 3Shape and Exocad, making it easy to combine with a practice’s existing workflow. EnvisionTEC also promises that its use of fewer moving parts means guaranteed durability so their customers experience reliable manufacturing quality.

“The technology and materials continue to improve as costs decrease, allowing even smaller labs to enjoy the benefits of 3D printing,” Shafer notes. “The accuracy, consistency and ability to be productive during non-business hours are all great points to consider as well.”

In the end, the needs and aspirations of each dental lab are different, but the overarching desire for the best quality product unites each lab no matter the size. The EnvisionTEC Vida system is a 3D printer designed to provide accuracy and reliability to any sized lab with finesse, affordability and ease of use. 3D printing technology and the major growth it’s experienced within the dental space show great potential for fulfilling a need by working faster and more efficiently-the way that only new technology can.