Dental Lab Products Editorial Director Noah Levine is joined by 3D Systems Vice President and General Manager, Dental Stef Vanneste to discuss the current state and future potential of dental 3D printing.
Noah Levine: Hello, I'm Noah Levine, Editorial Director with Dental Products Report®. Today I'm joined by Stef Vanneste. He is the general manager and vice president with 3D Systems, and he oversees their dental division. Stef, thanks so much for joining us today.
Stef Vanneste: You're most welcome. Good to be here.
Noah Levine: What are you hearing from customers right now in terms of what's happening in the dental lab industry?
Stef Vanneste: I think the evolution or the digitization of the dental industry, it has not stopped. I think in a certain way, COVID sort of accelerated that, because people started saying, "Let's not send models and practical stuff around from from door to door, but let's start sending files around to people. So that sort of helped. That means that people are getting a little bit more interested in this, even though they really want to have the contact with the people, they want to find out what what's now out there.
Noah Levine: In terms of that, how big of a role is 3D printing going to have in the future of the dental lab industry?
Stef Vanneste: I think it's gonna take a big part of that. It's, it's kind of maybe not 100%, because there's always going to be the artwork, let's say the manual work, the finishing, maybe some post processing—although we're also looking into that, how we can make that more user friendly. But 3D's going to take a majority of the parts of what's happening in dental labs, for sure.
Noah Levine: The labs have been 3D printing things for quite a long time now. They've really made it a part of a lot of their operations and changed things to make that work. But in the clinics chairside, it's still pretty rare that practices are doing much of any printing. What is it that, you know, is going to help that make this technology something that is more accessible and more widely used in the clinics, and you know, with a direct patient facing use?
Stef Vanneste: I think there's a couple of things that still need to be changed or adopted in a sense. Lab technicians already are one step ahead, let's say. They still have sort of the fear of the unknown and digital is difficult. So we need to make sure that they get the right information by making more marketing, but also by making more training available to them. Similar things we see in the clinics, but clinics are a little bit, yeah, one step before or behind. In this case, let's say they are overenthusiastic and they still consider sometimes, I scan it, I print it and it's done. And we need sort of get an out of that feeling and say, yes, in a sense, but we're not there yet. Still, you need to have some designing of the files and then send it to the printer, you need to post process you need to post cure it. So there's a lot of manual interactions that they tend to forget. So that is something that we need to explain them bit by bit, because then they will come into the phase where the lab technicians are today, sort of the fear of the unknown and that it's always going to be difficult. And now we can go back to the training and say it's not that difficult. But first, it's not that easy, as you expect today. So that is sort of the the difference between the two at the moment.
Noah Levine: Do you think though that at some point, a 3D printer is going to be kind of a standard piece of equipment in any dental practice, and you know, they're going to be scanning and then having crowns, dentures and other restorations print chairside?
Stef Vanneste: I think there's a place for 3D printing on all levels, let's say, I think for the smaller parts like a permanent crown or a veneer that is an ideal printing part workflow that you could do on chairside. It's one visit you scan it you print it you post cure it and you place it, of course the labs will have bigger works. In other words, and also in manufacturing sites, you can have the the metal printing, for instance, but for sure there's a room or place for the printer on the clinic side.
Noah Levine: The big change here in the US with the clinic side on the business aspect is the rise of group practices. DSOs and other models for group practices today have an advantage when it comes to bringing 3D printing into their organizations due to their scale. And is that something that's going to help the adoption of clinical 3D printing?
Stef Vanneste: All the advantage they already gonna have is the numbers. Printers you don't buy for, for one print a day, you buy for the routine, let's say to continuously start printing and using it. So if you have a group practice where you have more patients, of course, it can be more useful to have a printer. But then also the workflows become more important. If you can standardize the workflows to the total. It's not only about the printer, it's on the scanner is on the software. It's all the materials. It's an integration of the workflow that is important, and they can benefit from that, of course.
Noah Levine: Now you've already touched on the fact that you know sort of the perception of what 3D printing is. And the reality of what the process actually entails is not quite widely understood. What are some of the other hurdles that both the technology and the materials of 3D printing still need to overcome to be more more widely adopted throughout the dental industry?
Stef Vanneste: I think in a sense, ease and ease of use is still a lot of room for improvement, especially when you look when the scan is done, you still need to design. Of course, people have been used to doing that on a manual basis. Now they'd have to do it in a software. So software is becoming very important. Like with oxygen, we tap into the AI to assist there to make it user friendly. So that's an important one. Of course, on the the material side, we are very open, honest, if the denture material out there today or the tooth material out there today is not yet up to standard of what the current analog system, let's say is providing. So color's almost there, the translucency not yet, strength, we're improving. Like with CROWNTEC which is a permanent crown material, it's stronger, it's colorwise better, but it's not yet on the same level. So there is still a lot of room for improvement in that side as well.
Noah Levine: You just brought up CROWNTEC., and that's something I did want to talk about. This is the new permanent crown material that 3D Systems recently announced. Can you tell me about this material and kind of what it means to now have something that can be placed as a permanent restoration coming off the printer?
Stef Vanneste: I think the biggest step forward, of course, here is again, on the 3D printing that it's not a temporary, this is something that can last a long time. Let's say those terms and that we call it it's a permanent crown material. That's a good step ahead. Because always there was this connotation, yes, it's a material and we can print it, but it's not permanent. We need to come back while when now we say no, no, we're already there, you can go for permanent. So that's an eye opener, once again, putting the spotlight on 3D printing. While we're really making big steps ahead. The material is harder, it's more translucent, it's it's fitting better in the acceptation and the perception of the patient. So that's, that's what it's all about. Because in the end, it's about esthetics. It's about comfort, it's about better patient outcome as a general. And that is basically what this material is doing.
Noah Levine: In terms of the future of materials, what other types of materials are people going to be seeing come into the dental space? What things are people going to be able to do going forward with 3D printers?
Stef Vanneste: I think not to go to too many details on exactly what is out there. I think that is different applications. Of course, everybody is looking into the orthodontic space, how can we improve there, especially on the workflows? How to make it user friendly and maybe even go into direct printing. Of course, potentially the material itself. What is the current status ,where colorwise it's quite okay, fitwise, splinting accuracywise, okay, but maybe on some more comfortable features to the where for the patient can be improved. With these materials we made a big step ahead with with the CROWNTEC material, but it's not there yet. So how can we come more closer to zirconium or even start printing zirconia. We have the PEEK printing now also on board. So what else can we do there? Because we don't want to be limited to dentures only, but also to the macro facial part? How can we improve that? So it's more than more applications getting more wider and broader use in in general. So that's that's the exciting part I think also in the 3D printing.
Noah Levine: Yeah, it really is exciting to see all of the new innovations and applications that come out. Obviously, the materials are a big part, but printing technologies also play a role in this. Where is 3D systems in terms of continuing to drive the industry forward when it comes to printers and the ways that these printers are producing parts in three dimensions.
Stef Vanneste: I think we've been always on the forefront, actually on the, on the cradle when it was born, 3D printing, 3D Systems was there. So that's of course the motivation to keep on going. It's a challenge but I think we live up to it. We just launched in Chicago the metal printer again which is maybe too commercial that we use to success from from that side, I underestimated even the the attention that it would get from the market. So that really proves that is still a lot of improvement that we can come to market with other platforms. Of course, we are investigating a lot of use also on the biotech printing with recent investment in Kumovis, we are also working with PEEK printing. So not only materialwise, but also that on platformwise is changing a lot. So you know, there's many things ongoing, of course, lots of them are still behind closed doors, but definitely need to keep an eye open because we're going to come to market with many things in the future. So that's definitely not all hold on 3D systems.
Noah Levine: In terms of just the general future, how far can 3D printing go? Is this a technology that can, you know, basically make other production technologies obsolete? Are we going to see a time when mills are just no longer a part of digital dentistry? Are we going to see a time when, you know, there isn't much need for post processing, characterization and other stuff, and you do just have that here's a part out of the printer, and it's ready to go?
Stef Vanneste: Ideally, that is, of course, what we aim for. I think on the dental part itself, yes, milling more and more will become obsolete, because it's, it's, it's a proven process, but there is a lot of waste, there's a lot of time, there's a lot of cost to it. So that is becoming the hurdle for the mills, and more and more 3D printers are in the position to take over what a mill is doing today. If you look at the broader picture of 3D printing as a whole in an industry, it will never take over 100% Of course, there's always going to be some limitation and most likely in the future limitation will be more on the cost side where you say it's easier to make it in a conventional way than to, to print it because the printing always will be more on the innovative side and the early adopters early majority side. But in dental, that is an ideal market for 3D printing. There's 9 billion people out there and there is 9 billion different dentures out there. So it's unique for every time and that is what a 3D printer is. When it needs to be unique pieces, if you can make it in sequence then that is all the essential production processes there that can be more more valuable. But for dentures, it's it's an ideal market.
Noah Levine: Wonderful. I think that you know, definitely is great to hear and I think it is an exciting time to watch what's happening with 3d printing, especially in the dental space. Stef Vanneste from 3D Systems, thank you so much for joining us today.
Stef Vanneste: You're welcome. Thank you so much.