3D printing: improving the orthodontic sector

In this article we would like to show you how the orthodontic sector can increase revenue by using 3D printing! In August 2015, two companies from the orthodontic sector started using the Leapfrog Xeed for printing scanned teeth. The scanned teeth function as a mold for the so called “Clear Aligners”. “Clear Aligner’s” are an alternative to traditional braces. They help guide teeth into their proper position. Similar to braces, clear aligners use a gradual force to control tooth movement, but without metal wires or brackets.

Process: Scanning > Aligning > Printing > Thermomolding

Orthodontic, Leapfrog, 3D printing

Thomas Wais from WRC – Tech Austria & LAB M&W Zahn technique receives gypsium molds of patient’s teeth from dentists in Austria. Thomas scans the molds using a 10 micron resolution 3shape scannerbox. In Barcelona, Tessa Limargas from Ortoteam & Esthetic Aligner Team is doing the same. However, besides using a scanner box she also uses a handheld scanner that scans directly into the patients mouth. Therefore, she skips the process of making gypsum models. In both cases a scan is created from the patients teeth. The scan is loaded into a software program (Otrhoanalyser 3shape) to virtually align the patient’s teeth. The virtual model can be printed on a Leapfrog Xeed 3D printer. The last step is to use a thermomolding machine to press foil over the printed teeth. The result of that is a clear aligner.

Ortoteam & Esthetic Aligner Team

Tessa Limargas mentions the severity of the teeth’s malposition influences the amount of time it takes to align them. During this period of time, one aligns the teeth in as many stages as it takes. For each stage a new print and new foil is necessary. The amount of aligners is dependent on the misalignment of the teeth. The worst the misalignment is, the more aligners. However, sometimes more than 6 teeth and aligners are necessary. We use the Leapfrog Xeed 3D printer because it’s a professional FDM 3D printer delivering enough resolution and speed. Nonetheless, more important is the possibility to place up to 15 ABS models in one print session on the bed.

orthodontic, Leapfrog, 3D printing

Regular FDM desktop printers have often already difficulties printing a single ABS model without warping & deforming of the print. We tried with a Makerbot desktop FDM 3D printer however failed. Warping & deforming is a big issue with ABS. We need ABS material to stand the pressure and heat created during the thermomolding process. After a brief training from Leapfrog we were confident enough that the Xeed could do the job. The Xeed is now running 24/7. Main benefit for us is that the Xeed enables us to print our own models instead of using a third party 3D print provider which increasing our efficiency and production time, making us more independent.

WRC – Tech Austria & LAB M&W Zahn technique

Thomas Wais has been exploring the market for a 3D printer for three months. The choice was between the Objet 30 that uses the Polyjet print technique and Leapfrog’s Xeed 3D printer. However, the first machine is too expensive for his budget. Moreover, the material and maintenance costs to run the Objet machine per year are too high. He eventually made a decision to buy the Leapfrog Xeed 3D printer. It is more professional and far more affordable than its competetiors. It also uses the fused deposition modeling technique (FDM). To compare, a printed model from an Objet printer will cost him between 15 and 30 Euro’s.

orthodontic, Leapfrog, 3D printing

However, Xeed 3D printer costs him merely a few Euro’s taking into account material cost, electricity cost and depreciation of the machine. Also, anyone can perform the maintenance of the Xeed, regardless if that person has any technical background. The maintenance is mainly about swapping a nozzle or hot end once in a while. The Xeed saves him between 15K and 20K per year. On top of that, no downtime is involved since they do not have to stop production while waiting for maintenance from a certified company. They are producing with success for already a month. They managed to print ABS teeth without decreasing the quality of their products.