Dr. Andrew Kanawati is an Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon at Westmead Hospital, Sydney, who has developed a special interest in clinical and research uses of 3D printing. He has developed several custom 3D printed patient-specific spinal guides to assist in surgery, and uses composite models made of several different Formlabs materials to plan complex surgeries.

Dr. Kanawati is on the cutting edge of spinal surgical innovation, using 3D printing to improve outcomes.In this post, we recap some of the key findings from Dr. Kanawati’s presentation at the 2021 Formlabs User Summit.

3D Printing Tumors ...

Historically, research for medical printing has focused on fused deposition modeling (FDM) printers due to their low price point and ubiquitous market penetration in the past. Dr. Kanawati felt there was a huge opportunity to use stereolithography (SLA), due to the superior material properties of the final parts. These material properties, such as being able to print watertight parts (something you can’t do with FDM), meant higher quality medical devices could be printed and tested.

One day, Dr. Kanawati was examining a patient who was complaining of leg pain. The patient had been diagnosed with a benign tumor when they were young. A new MRI and CT scan revealed that the tumor was growing into the side of the patient’s spine. Pushing up against nerves, the tumor represented a serious medical challenge.

Every tumor is different, and each patient is different. For complex cases involving the spinal cord and nerves, being able to examine human anatomy in 3D space can be the difference between a successful surgery or a failed one.

Dr. Kanawati turned to his Formlabs SLA printer and Grey Resin and started printing. A full model of the lower spin and tumor used 156ml of resin, the equivalent of only $23. He said, “Grey Resin is the workhorse resin from Formlabs. I find Grey Resin has a high print success.”

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A physical, 360º model of the patient’s spine model and tumor helps surgeons to reduce errors and improve patient outcomes. The models help surgeons visualize and handle the contact points between the tumor and the nerve branches, granting them greater dexterity and confidence when operating. This is a major benefit of 3D printing for spinal surgery. Having SLA printers in-house allows surgeons to scan, segment, and print models within a day. In emergency cases where time is of the essence, a 3D printed model can inform the surgeons’ decisions and grant them extra confidence.

Having access to a 3D printed model helps with pre-operative planning, allowing Dr. Kanawati

to assess the possibility of conducting a shortening operation. Less time in surgery means reduced spinal cord tension without causing direct neural damage. It also gave the team enhanced insight into which pedicles (a small stalklike structure connecting an organ or other part to the human or animal body) were viable, and how best to conduct the surgery.

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But Dr. Kanawati wasn’t done creating his patient model. Taking his 3D printing to the next level, he showcased the power of SLA printing for medical applications by printing with multiple materials on a single machine. Dr. Kanawati swapped his build tray for a new one, and started creating replicas of the patient’s nerves in Elastic Resin. This allowed him to overlay the nerves onto his spine model, meaning there were no surprises once the surgery started. He said, “during the operations, we entered the patient from the back. While in surgery, we couldn’t see the nerves, but because of the 3D printed model we knew exactly where they were.”

Saving a Limited Resource ...

3D printing can assist in far more than preoperative planning. Dr. Kanawati wanted to know if he could 3D print patient-specific cutting guides to use for an accurate laminectomy. According to John Hopkins, a laminectomy is a type of surgery in which a surgeon removes part or all of the vertebral bone (lamina). This helps ease pressure on the spinal cord or the nerve roots that may be caused by injury, herniated disk, narrowing of the canal (spinal stenosis), or tumors. According to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS), “the annual estimate of laminectomy discharges averages around 34 discharges per 100,000 adults from 1998 to 2008”, making them a very common operation.

Dr. Kanawati once again turned to his Formlabs SLS 3D printer and Grey Resin, printing both the guides and a spinal model on the same build platform. After removing and post-processing his models, he was able to screw the guides into the spinal model to see if they fit. If any adjustments were needed, they could be easily reprinted.

By conducting a full surgical simulation before the cadaveric study, the team is able to find issues with their cutting guides without wasting or risking a fresh cadaver. Given that cadavers are a limited resource, reducing failures in the preoperative testing phase is a source of significant cost savings.

The cutting guides have another benefit: they enable the use of high-speed drills. Normally high-speed drills are not allowed in procedures, as if they are misguided they can damage surrounding neural elements. But with a perfect fit 3D printed cutting guide, these drills are usable and greatly improve and speed up surgery.

Dr. Kanawati has since published a research paper on this topic, titled The Development of Novel 2-in-1 Patient-Specific, 3D-Printed Laminectomy Guides with Integrated Pedicle Screw Drill Guides.

Learn How 3D Printing is Already Impacting Surgery ...

Dr. Kanawati is not the only medical professional using 3D printing to optimize workflows and improve spinal surgery outcomes.

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Mr. Andrew Bowey is responsible for leading the 3D platform within the Royal Victoria Infirmary and Freeman Hospitals based in Newcastle, which are pioneering centers for spinal treatments within the UK. Bowey's team prints 3D anatomical models that aid clinicians in explaining procedures to patients and their families, helping to fully demonstrate risks and manage expectations. By conducting a full surgical simulation before the operation, Mr. Bowey was able to save over 120 minutes of time during a complex surgical procedure, equating to around £8,000 GBP of the hospital’s funds.

In addition, the process also contributed to reduced blood loss and better communication with the surgical team throughout the procedure.

“Spinal procedures can be extremely complex and no two procedures are the same. Anatomical models help surgeons like myself in explaining the associated risks of a procedure, which is important for gaining informed consent especially when complications could put them at risk of paralysis.” - Mr. Andrew Bowey, Spinal Surgeon, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals

If you’d like to learn more about dental 3D printing, scanners, or other dental industry trends, contact our friendly Solid Print Dental team. Call us on 01926 333 796 or email us at dental@solidprint3d.co.uk.

The last couple of years have changed many things, to say the least. These unprecedented changes are also influencing the key dental industry trends coming in 2022.

The single most significant development dentists and dental health official can look forward to is the iThe single most significant development dentists and dental health official can look forward to is the increasing push toward digitalization. While you can’t make dental care completely remote (not yet at least), we’ll see many advanced technologies making their way into dentists’ offices this year.

On the top of the pile are different 3D-based technologies. You can expect dental 3D printers and 3D scanners to become standard equipment for many dentists.

Let’s take a closer look at what the key dental industry trends will be in 2022, and how you can prepare for them.

1) Dental 3D Printing

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Dental 3D printing is one the most important rising dental industry trends at the moment. These machines — like Formlabs Form 3B+ — present a great opportunity to make dental care faster, cheaper, and more effective.

Dental 3D printers can print with biocompatible, medical-grade materials at a high level of accuracy to create appliances for dentistry. The most common 3D printing technology for dental operations is stereolithography (SLA), which uses a laser to cure liquid resins into solid objects.

By incorporating a dental 3D printer in your office or lab, you can streamline your appliance production and provide better care for your patients. Some of the most significant benefits of dental 3D printers include:

everything medical models, dentures, and retainers to implants, surgical guides, whole teeth, and medical tools.

2) Intraoral Dental 3D Scanning

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Going hand in hand with 3D printing is dental 3D scanning. Although 3D scanners have already found their way into many offices in 2021, this dental industry trend is expected to become even more prevalent in the coming year.

Leading the way for dental 3D scanners are intraoral scanners. These lightweight and easy-to-use appliances make dental imaging a breeze compared to manual methods.

An intraoral dental 3D scanner resembles a small want with a light-equipped rotating camera at the tip. The dentist inserts the camera into a patient’s mouth, where it will create an accurate 3D model of their jaws and teeth.

Simply put, dentistry 3D scanning is faster, more comfortable and efficient in every way compared to traditional imaging. Its benefits include:

According to experts, up to 35% of dentists are already using intraoral scanners. In 2022, we’re likely to see that percentage grow while dental 3D scanning will keep developing as a technology.

3) Teledentistry

Although we may have said that you can’t provide dental care remotely, teledentistry is nonetheless emerging as a driving dental industry trend this year. The term is a new, but it should become standardized dental lexicon over the next months.

It’s not difficult to see why teledentistry has cropped relatively quickly. Due to the pandemic, there’s been an increased emphasis on health and safety — not to mention patients simply being uncomfortable going out with the COVID-19 still raging.

A CareQuest report showed that 34% of dental providers at least considered using telehealth appointments in the last couple of years. In 2022, we can safely expect this number to rise significantly.

Naturally, teledentistry can replace physical visits if the patient needs fillings, implants, or other procedures. However, more and more dentists are turning to online appointments for consultations, post-op checks, and making preliminary diagnoses based on symptoms.

Teledentistry is simply a good idea. It can make providing care to patients faster when you already know what you’re dealing with when they come in.

In addition, you can cut down on the number of people sitting in your waiting room who don’t necessarily even need to be there. You might also be able to increase your revenue by taking teledentistry appointments between patients or after hours.

4) Digital Patient Experience

On top of teledentistry, we can expect to see many other digital technologies among the key dental industry trends this year. These technologies all share one goal — to make the patient experience easier and smoother.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is slowly but surely making its way into dental care. In 2022, we should start seeing an increasing number of applications harnessing this powerful technology.

Machine learning and AI will help dentists distinguish patterns and anomalies in large data sets. AI can aid dentists determine the best possible treatment quicker, identify at-risk patients by comparing their symptoms with existing libraries, and optimize appliance design for dental 3D printing.

Another technology connected to AI are chatbots. Placed on practice websites, chatbots can help patients find the information they need quickly without the need for a call or face-to-face meeting with a dentist. They can help practices save time and money, when patients can determine for themselves whether they need to see a dentist.

5) Subscription Dentistry

As the last but not least 2022 dental industry trend, we’ll start seeing the emergency of subscription dentistry. Many services today have moved to a subscription model, so it only makes sense that dental care would follow suit.

Subscription services offer definite benefits for both patients and dentists. Depending on the country, up to more than half of dental patients avoid seeing a dentist due to the associated cost. This can result in developing long-term dental problems.

An annual or monthly subscription plan can cover regular dental care, like cleanings, fillings, and more. This can help patients keep expenses in check and still get the treatments they need. At the same time, dentists can get a steadier revenue stream, which can help them plan their finances more effectively.

Studies show that 83% of consumers are likely to stick with a practice offering a subscription plan. You should definitely consider implementing this service model in 2022.

Implement the Latest Dental Industry Trends at Your Practice

The year is well on its way. If you haven’t done so already, you should start making sure your dental practice is following the latest dental industry trends. The good news is that it’s easier than you’d think.

Professional-quality dental 3D printers — such as Formlabs Form 3B+ — are affordable and easy to use. Even if you’re completely new to 3D printing, you’ll quickly learn how to offer custom-made, cheap dental appliances to your patients.

To get the most out of your dental 3D printer, consider also purchasing an intraoral dental 3D scanner. They are becoming the industry standard — you don’t want to be late in adopting them.

Good scanners, such as 3DISC Heron IOS, are somewhat more expensive than 3D printers. However, the improved speed and quality of care you can provide will quickly return your investment.

Teledentistry and other digital services can be more challenging to implement, but luckily help is available. More and more IT companies are expanding their service catalogues to include these technologies.

This year is promising to be exciting for dentists. Embrace new technology and find out what 2022 has in store for your practice.

If you’d like to learn more about dental 3D printing, scanners, or other dental industry trends, contact our friendly Solid Print Dental team. Call us on 01926 333 777 or email us at info@solidprint3d.co.uk.

In my task to explore the benefits that 3D printing provides in applications, not only for engineering but also in other fields such as dentistry, I decided to visit a dental office to see it for myself. As a result, I am pleased to have contacted Dr Ricardo Brito, whom I thank for giving me his space and time to share this experience with you.

Ricardo Brito graduated from the UCV (Universidad Central de Venezuela) in 2008 with a postgraduate degree in oral rehabilitation from Javeriana University. Ricardo has explored various criteria in several countries worldwide, mainly throughout Europe, Latin America and the USA, to develop his personal work philosophy within his practice. Ricardo is also a scientific advisor to two commercial houses, Ivoclar Vivadent and Digital Smile Design (DSD), with whom he has lectured on digital dentistry worldwide since 2012.

For the past four years, Ricardo has been using Formlabs Dental technology in his practice as a fundamental part of his workflows. Upon entering his office, I was able to witness a place fully equipped with digital systems. I also had the pleasure of meeting his assistants working with the resin printed dental models. As there was work to do in his office, Ricardo gave me the interview in his uncle's office, located in the same clinic. The contrast was impressive; this office, unlike the previous one, had a vintage style; it didn't even have a single computer. This simple change made me think of the digital changes that have happened at an abysmal pace in just one generation, and, with this idea in mind, the interview begins.

The Transition from Analog to Digital

What was it like, in your personal experience, that transition between traditional and digital?

It is trending in dentistry, and it is equipment modernisation, as easy as that. One thing leads you to the other. However, not necessarily having the latest technology makes you a better dentist; the most important thing is to have the concept clear, but modernisation forces you to do processes with a slightly different curve, a digital curve.

For many years, 3D printing for dental uses has been in existence, with a learning curve much longer than I have directly felt. I personally worked with this technology long before I bought it. The first case was addressed in 2014 at the headquarters of Digital Smile Design in Madrid. Then when I saw enough precision and an affordable price range, I started using it in my office.

What is the key factor that forced you to adapt to that digital curve?

Precision, I specifically addressed it for precision. Because when you do it analogically, you depend 100% on your skill. Did I like the results I had? Yes. But the problem is that I had to spend too much time on that critical point that was the lab. So, when you start to enter the digital world and when you see that you take less time on the computer to make that same result; Well, obviously, you no longer need your hand ability, you just press play, and you are 100% sure that the printer will replicate what you did on the computer.

What did you use before to make the models? A resin? A mould?

Exactly, I used a silicone material mould to duplicate what I did. But, as I say, what is the point of that duplication issue if now I have a machine? In the end, I won't claim back the human time it would take me to do that; it's not operational for me. It's a time where the machine works alone. When a workday is over, I start the printer, and it's like having a person in the office working at a time when nobody works.

And, as for the separate lab you mentioned, with all its specialised machines, how high are the additional upfront and maintenance costs?

Notice that the cost of, for example, a product such as a milling machine is diametrically opposed to a printer. A dental milling machine, the cheapest, is available on the market for $50000, the cheapest. On the other hand, a printer of an excellent and professional range, such as Formlabs, is between $3000-$4000.

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The New Digital Modality

So isn't the milling machine going to be needed anymore? Is this a complete transition from subtractive to additive?

We are just around the corner from not needing a milling machine anymore as printing technologies are doing it in a much more efficient way, faster, and not only that but also with fewer problems and with less material expenditure. Because, here, you only print what you want, while the milling machine acts backwards, you have a block-mill, and so much material is lost in the process. Previously, the depreciation of the material was huge. I mean, you lost almost 70% of the block.

The implication it has is absurd. So, it is practically impossible for a mill to make certain angles, while in 3D printing, there are no position restrictions. If you want to make a geometry within another geometry with a milling machine, it is impossible. In contrast, there are very few limitations on the printer.

Of course, the milling machine still has a range of gain. With the same file, the milling machine can make a definitive material, while with the resins, we're not quite there yet; but we are getting there soon. The use of resins with ceramics suspensions is entering the market; it simply needs a lost-wax technique where the particles agglutinate to generate the definitive ceramic piece. It's going to be achieved, it's a chemical thing, it's purely engineering. 

Another vital thing we are seeing is that we can bring splendid dentistry to the masses. Before you could not do that, before you paid a lot for an elite technician, now we can lower the costs of those technicians who have these technologies and thus massify the matter a little more.

However, isn't this a problem for technicians, given that dentists can now solve in-house?

No, on the contrary, what it does is that it makes the process easier for them. That generated a huge controversy in the dental world four years ago. No, we need the technicians, but imagine how a good technician could be enhanced with good technology. You're going to significantly increase the excellence factor, which is what we're looking for. And, the technician who maybe didn't have that manual virtue can now take it to an optimal level.

So, now, I guess the technician can concentrate more on the details and become less saturated with the demand.

Exactly, then you generate a much better market, you cover much more, you give a better service, everything improves, everything has to improve, and it will improve. From the first moment I saw the 3D printing matter, I said that it has to go to my office, yes and yes. And in our dental courses and conferences, we say that dentists who don't have a printer in their office right now are practically crazy to us. How are you not going to have it?  

In what specific case has the geometric freedom you mention helped you?

You can simply see it with all the provisional prostheses that one places; it is freedom, plenty. After you scan the patient, you already get a file, which is a very fast result. Having a temporary tooth for a patient after 45 minutes is a great thing.

What is the current issue like regarding regulations, health standards in the world of dental printing?

Look, the most important point is that we live off biocompatibility and sterilisation. We must sterilise our materials and use autoclave ovens for this purpose. The good thing is that we have no problem with that, available resins can withstand these high-temperature cycles. Also, of course, they meet the purpose of biocompatibility by not generating negative responses in tissues. These processes are already governed by the American Dental Association (ADA), an entity with a very high-quality standard, which we follow in our procedures.

Ricardo's Dental Workflow

In this section, Ricardo briefly shares with us all the steps he follows with his patients and how digital technology is involved in every aspect of this workflow.  He started by telling me about the importance of the DSD Planning Center digital platform in his daily workflow and that of his colleagues.

We are part of a global planning centre called Digital Smile Design (DSD) Planning Center, set in Madrid. They have a place full of programmers, all under this dental philosophy. So, you send your case there, they analyse, they print, they mill, they simulate, and they guide you; it's straightforward. It's impressive, I don't even need to send my file to manufacture there; they send it to me to print it here since I have exactly the same printer calibration they have there. In fact, I have the same software as them. We were part of that learning curve during its development, and for that reason, I belong to their organisation; also, my laboratory is certified by them.

What I'm saying is that we dentists are trained to care for patients in a chair. Well, let's give the chair time, an effective time, that's the most important thing.

And, in what cases would you have to send something to another lab?

The only cases I have sent to other labs is when surgical plannings are too extensive, and although I can deal with it myself, I have a family, I have a life, so I prefer to leave it with them. I just do as an orchestral conductor, and when it's ready, I approve the treatment plan. For approval, they send me the file to print. In fact, they send a box which is called The Magic Box. They send everything from surgical guides, bone reduction guides, implant placement guides, prosthetics guides, everything. Every guide has the perfect ring for the implants to enter in the right position and height. I mean, it's like playing Lego. Now we are playing Lego in dentistry.

In general, how are your workflows?

We say that in the courses as well. There are some dynamics in the first and second consultations. The dynamics of the first consultation is: The patient arrives and makes his story, enters the office and takes his photographs. Then moves on to the dental chair, where you do the scanning. Then, he goes home quietly, but you already have the necessary information: Photographs, scans and what you saw at the time of the dental consultation. If you have a supplemental exam like a CT scan or some x-ray study, you attach it, but those are complementary studies. Once you have that information, it is processed within a planning centre where the ideal treatment is generated. Then, one validates it as a dentist.

And do they do it manually from the centre, or do they rely more on automated algorithms?

That's manual and within the software capabilities. Since they have a learning curve already set, the team at the planning centre know precisely where they are going. They've seen so many repeated cases that it's something like having an algorithm generated.


We cross different files. First, we cross an STL file with a CT scan and, apart from that CT scan, with a photograph or face scan. So we have an overlay of images that provides me with outstanding accuracy. Face scanning can be done with photogrammetric cameras to get a good mapping, but there are several other techniques. You cross that with the scanning of the jaw, and with a tomography, here practically everything you need is noted.


I'm getting more technical here. From the periodontal point of view, crown or teeth enlargements were exceedingly manual in the past. When the dentist worked and made good precision work, you said, "Hey, yes, I like it"; the aesthetic aspect of the dentist had to be there. Not now, design workflows generate a restrictive guide where you simply have a single cutting position. You no longer need that ultra-delicacy of that dentist wizard; now you already know what you want. The same program sets limits, and your software workflow becomes 100% restrictive.

The software works with a mesh crossing between each element. Then you go with the first mesh, which is the bone, and on top goes what the gums and teeth would be, then the other elements to add. When the software captures it, you decide what to do, and it generates almost everything for you, which is the most exciting thing about it. There is no ideal software for me, several companies are coming up to create them as ideal as possible, but there is no ideal software. What I do is I have three favourite software programs, Nemo, Blue Sky and Exocad, and I cross information between them. So, it opens up an excellent range of possibilities.  


Once we have studied the patient's case, then comes the second consultation dynamic. We generate a review, and additionally, we can have a printed mockup model to present the ideal treatment. Then, we show the project in images, and, after approval, we proceed to the dental chair to place the model in the patient's mouth as a test.

Which resins do you use for these mockups? Is it biocompatible?

Yes, those specific resins are biocompatible. But, in this case, it is for temporary use; we place it so that the patient can see it. For this, I use Formlab's temporary tooth colour resin in its various colours, A1, A2, A3. In the end,  the idea with the mockup is that you see what you could do in the future. It's a functional biological prototype you use before producing the final one. With flows just like those of architecture or engineering: 2D Planification, 3D, testing model and definitive. Before, in dentistry, many tests were made: Material testing, ceramic testing, dimensional testing. Now the printer provides me with a fidelity of 30 microns, is there something more faithful than that?  The truth is I'm hardly testing anymore.


Once the project is approved, you start executing the protocol. For each tooth, whatever that is needed: "This tooth needs inlays, this tooth needs a mask, this tooth needs an implant." You're going to execute the treatment plan you defined from the ground up.

Once the project is approved, you start executing the protocol. For each tooth, whatever that is needed: "This tooth needs inlays, this tooth needs a mask, this tooth needs an implant." You're going to execute the treatment plan you defined from the ground up.

And, what can you tell me about the lost wax process?

Previously, it was the lost wax technique, and now it is a lost resin technique (More on this process here). Already we generate definitive results, and we can use the model we print in a refractory investment casting process. Here the oven is calibrated specifically so the model can be removed entirely, without any residue, and then the ceramic is injected.

Some resins already come suspended with ceramics, for instance, the one offered by BEGO (A Formlabs Dental partner). From the software, you calculate the redistribution level of the ceramic material. It is like, for example, zirconium; this material comes oversized. When sintering, the molecules bind together, and that is already calibrated to achieve the intended scales. The same goes for these resins, you just have to calculate the shrinkage percentage, and you're done.

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Ricardo's experience with Formlabs Dental

You already have a learning curve of several years with 3D printing. How do you feel it has evolved throughout time?

Like any other learning process, you have to focus on the specific software you use; the printer is just: Log and play. The learning curve of printers is not that complex, and machines do practically everything for you. You have to place the initial setting, but, in many cases, commercial houses, such as Formlabs, give you an instruction on how to place those parameters. Formlabs interfaces are highly intuitive because they have already done such a nice learning curve that they know very well how to adapt it to your dental workflow quickly.

How is your experience in terms of calibrations and maintenance? Do you consider Formlabs printers to be robust systems?

Look, compared to other systems, the Formlabs equipment is quite stable and doesn't need much calibration. We do quarterly calibrations. In fact, Formlabs printers, which is the thing I like the most, yield a result after calibration, thus making sure everything is fine. That's because it's Formlabs and its array of sensors. With other brands that do not exist, you have to do it all manually.

We know they have a useful life, and equipment depreciation. So, we do calibration to see how the machine is doing; though we know that Formlabs does it digitally, we do it manually just to be sure. After that, we're ready to work and print.

The most important thing I can tell you is that you should have dedicated tanks. I personally have tanks for each resin, all stored, sealed and protected against light. Otherwise, you would have to be constantly emptying and cleaning, which I don't recommend.

How do you handle slicer parameters?

Everything is already preset. The only thing you have to do in Preform is to choose the layer height: You want 25 microns, 50 or 100 microns?

On what basis do you decide which resolution to use?

There are cases where we always need to have a very high resolution for a definitive work. When it comes to mockups, where not so much detail is needed, printing is much faster. We are not interested in taking four hours on a model when it can be done in 45 minutes and still with an excellent resolution. You need it to work fast, and the machine must be useful for any task it takes. For example, a full-mouth model with an accuracy of 25 microns can take about 4 hours, while the same model with 100 microns can take 1 hour. A 100-micron resolution is enough to be within the tolerance range we need for a test sample.  

Since you told me that you leave the machine alone in your office, what can you tell us about the Formlabs monitoring system?

I go home, and just by checking the Formlabs website, I can know in real-time how the process is going, the level of the tank, the depreciation of the equipment, what error is happening, everything. Besides, you also have stats. For example, you can see how much resin you spent in a month and, with that, you can generate your own accounting. The same platform tells you, "Look, the resin tank will run out soon. Do you want to place a new order?" Of all the brands I've worked with, I've only seen this management level with Formlabs.

So what would be the main factor that drove you to choose Formlabs?

It is an earnest company that can always take, maybe, a little longer than other commercial houses to get their products out. But, the product that comes out has such a good accuracy that users don't really need a learning curve. The commercial house is already doing that learning curve, and it is sending you an elite product to your office; this must be said.

Another thing that surprises me a lot about Formlabs, is their technical support. It's one of the best tech supports I've ever had in my life. On your page, you have a  Formbot that says: "Hi Ricardo, what do you need?" and then you write your problem. For example, "I am generating x error when I try to print" or "The tank has x issue". For any issue, it gives you detailed instructions with everything you need to do. The communication is super fast, super effective, and everything is nicely documented. They are constantly innovating, always doing forums, they always send videos on how to make improvements to your equipment in order to have the best and most precise final process. While other brands tell you, "Well, here's the stuff, get beaten up", Formlabs takes you by the hand like a child.

The Digital Future in Dentistry

With all these benefits, why don't you convince your uncle to adopt this technology?

He doesn't need to; he has me. In fact, in this clinic, everyone has me. So he always comes to me and says, "Hey Ricardo, can we print?" everyone in this clinic uses it.

Of course! It should not be easy for everyone to adapt to digital dynamics; it is like learning a whole new language. That is entirely understandable.

Exactly. It's, as I say, a learning curve. You have to be clear from the start that there must be a considerable studying process until, suddenly, you are already an expert in the field, and everything becomes easier. It's like when we transitioned from discs to MP3. One said then, how do 1000 discs fit into this device when a thousand discs occupy an entire piece of furniture? (He points out his uncle's record furniture), it's the reality of life, and that's where we go. That's why I consider myself an early adopter, and I try to adapt as soon as possible.

And, beyond 3D printing, what other technologies do you see filling your ecosystem?

What I see is that we're going to have more AI technology. We will configure a program's settings to do what we do routinely; for me, that is AI. Instead of a radiologist reading an x-ray, this time, the machine will do it. For example, machines detecting cavities and bone densities for us, the criterion of whether an implant is going to be needed or not, everything is going to be decided by the AI and that's what's going to happen in dentistry.  So, all of these digital protocols will be standardised by a machine. We depend 100% on our brain, but we can redirect that energy for more enjoyment if we release a little bit of the tension we have at work.

Now, going back to 3D printing, what expectations do you have regarding 3D printing for the future? What's missing? What future development can we expect?

I would say that definitive materials for dentistry is the next stage of development. And, I tell you, that's just around the corner. Now we are still printing resins to transform them into something else, as it happens with the lost resin technique. Then the technology points towards the definitive product coming out of the printer quickly, and with fewer post-processing times, all is reduced to shortening processes and improving materials. We already have the fidelity of the machines, and now we only have to make sure that the same fidelity happens with the materials. Therefore, I see that there will be no clinic without a 3D printer. It has to happen.

Finally. What recommendations can you share with those who want to enter a digital modality in the world of dentistry?

First of all, it is already a reality; You can't cover the sun with a finger. Digital dentistry is happening and is here to stay. Digitisation is already a reality that we see on a daily basis, and the most important thing is to take the first step, to act. "Don't worry, take care of doing it yourself first, and then you'll see how it goes"; that's what we always say in our courses. I am already doing 100% digital dentistry since 2012, and I'm convinced I will never go back to classic dentistry. Now my hands sting if something doesn't go into the digital stream because I know that doing it this way, I work with more precision, I'm freer, and I can offer a better service.

Further Info

If you want to explore more Formlabs Dental solutions, Solid Print Dental is here to help you. For more information, please call Solid Print Dental on 01926 333 796 or email dental@solidprint3d.co.uk.

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Further Readings:

Ceramics 3D Printing: Everything You Need to Know

Carbon: Is 3D Printing Ready for Mass Production?

Joe Townsend: 3D Printing Success Story

A dentist’s job requires many different kinds of appliances, from implants to prosthetics, guides, retainers, and physical models. Dental 3D printing is a quickly advancing technology that’s revolutionising the dental industry.

Traditional methods to create these tools — such as plaster models — are slow and potentially very expensive. They aren’t ideal solutions, but for a long time they were the only available ones. A dental 3D printer, like Formlabs Form 3B, can significantly improve the process of creating these tools, benefiting both the dentist and the patient.

Here we’ll explain what 3D printing for dentistry is and what its benefits are. We’ll also explore how dentists use 3D printers and where the technology is heading.

How Dental 3D Printing Works ...

Not all of the myriad 3D printing technologies available today are suitable for dental 3D printing. Dental applications require a certain level of accuracy and material properties, which disqualify some types of 3D printers. The most common technologies dentists use are SLA, SLS, metal 3D printing, and FFF.

produce the finest details out of nearly any 3D printing technology. However, it is rather slow with large prints, and the printed parts require extensive post-processing, including cleaning, removing supports, and UV curing.

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Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) ...

SLS 3D printers — like Formlabs Fuse 1 — also use lasers. Instead of resin, however, they harden a material powder into a solid form. The powders are usually Nylon, but they could also be metal-nylon fixtures.

SLS machines are generally large, and as such they’re best suited for mass production of crowns, prosthetics, or other dental implements that need to be tough and wear-resistant. Another advantage of SLS is that it doesn’t require supports, as the powdered material supports parts in the print chamber. This technology also requires post-processing to clean the powder, which can pose a health hazard in some cases.

Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) ...

FFF, also known by the proprietary named Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), is the most common 3D printing technology in the world. As such, it’s no wonder that it has found its way into dental 3D printing as well. FFF printers, such as Ultimaker S5, build objects by depositing melted thermoplastic filament onto the print bed layer by layer.

While it is common, FFF isn’t a dental 3D printing technology per se. It can be used to produce, for example, scaffolds from biocompatible plastics, but the accuracy and available materials aren’t suitable for trays or crown. However, FFF can still create things like rough anatomical models or hooks and fixtures for the dentist’s office.

Benefits of Dentist 3D Printing ...

But why should dentists swap to this new technology if they’ve worked with traditional methods up to this point? To be blunt, dental 3D printing is simply a better option for multiple reasons.

  1. Cost Savings: Dental 3D printing saves money for both the dentist and the patient. Running a dental lab can easily cost more than £75,000 a year, while you can get a professional-quality dental SLA printer for around £4,000. These savings can be passed on to patients, who can get — for example — crowns for 80% cheaper.
  2. Time Savings: Designing and making dental tools traditionally is a slow and laborious process. A dental 3D printer, on the other hand, can build splints, crowns, or trays in a matter of hours.
  3. Improved Accuracy: Manually manufacturing anything can introduce inconsistencies, simply due to human error. Not so with 3D printing — dental 3D printers can create extremely accurate objects with reliable repetition. Additionally, using dental 3D scanners makes it easy to get accurate digital representations of your patient’s jaws and teeth.
  4. Customizability: Since dental 3D printing is a digital technology, it’s very easy to edit and customize the 3D models before printing. If an implant, for example, doesn’t fit for some reason, you can quickly modify it and print it again without hassle.
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Materials for Dental 3D Printers ...

Your materials library depends on the machine you use, but with any of them you will still be spoiled for options. Note, however, that in most jurisdictions, all medical materials must be approved by the authorities, so it’s best to work with a company with a dedicated line of dental 3D printers to ensure material legality.

Some dental 3D printing materials include:

Dental 3D Printing Applications ...

3D printing in dentistry is suitable for creating practically any dental appliances. Dentists around the world have realised this and are using dental 3D printing for a great variety of applications. Let’s explore some of them.

Medical Model

Anatomical modelling is one of the earliest uses of 3D printing in the medical industry. Dentists can scan the patient’s jaws and 3D print an accurate model for study before making a diagnosis and performing surgery. This is particularly valuable when the patient has suffered extensive injuries or has an unusual anatomy.

Retainers, Aligners, and Guards

Transparent resins make it possible to use dental 3D printing to create practically invisible retainers, aligners, and guards. Thanks to the technology’s accuracy, dentists can make sure these appliances fit as well as possible to minimize discomfort and un-aesthetic appearance.

Drilling Guides

High-resolution dental 3D printers and materials allow dentists to create accurate drilling guides when preparing for dental surgery. You can print a guide that fits perfectly onto the patient’s anatomy to make surgical operations faster and to reduce the change for errors.

Dental Implants

mplant. 3D printers make it possible to create extremely complex geometries, like bone-like morphologies, that traditional manufacturing can’t produces. Advanced technologies and materials are also opening new doors in the area, such as anti-bacterial tooth implants.

Bond Trays

Materials like IBT Resin let you create bond trays to hold the patient’s new braces in place while they adhere to their teeth. 3D printed bond trays reduce human error and work faster, meaning less waiting time for the dentist and patient.


3D printed dentures are faster and cheaper to manufacture than traditional ones. They can also be made to be more accurate, which improves their durability and longevity. The higher accuracy also results in more realistic dentures, which is something patients will definitely appreciate.

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Medical Tools

Do you need a new hook for hanging up your drill or a customized tray for other tools? Simply 3D print it. Dental and traditional 3D printers make it easy for you to customize your dental tools to your liking.

Future Prospects of Dental 3D Printing

Dental 3D printing is an up-and-coming technology. Although it has already produced great successes, future technological advancements are set to make it even more significant.

New biocompatible m biocompatible materials will make it even easier to create customized, high-quality appliances and implants. Meanwhile, advancements in dental 3D printer technology will not only make printing faster, but also expand the range of applications with ever more accurate and durable prints.

“3D printers are now affordable and within reach of all clinicians. The great advantage of this is that the clinician can access specialists from around the world but still manufacture the specific appliance for their patient locally,” said George Cabanas, director of Digital Smile Design.

In the end, 3D printers in the office are a sign that the clinician is willing to invest in their practice and their patients by using the best tools possible.”

To learn more about dental 3D printing and implement it at your clinic, contact our team at Solid Print Dental. Call us on 01926 333 796 or email us at dental@solidprint3d.co.uk.

Getting dental impressions the traditional way is slow and unpleasant for both the patient and the dentist. But thanks to intraoral 3D scanning, the days of biting down on an icky goo-covered tray are over.

An intraoral 3D scanner — like the 3DISC Heron IOS — is a type of lightweight, handheld dental 3D scanner. With it, dentists can quickly and effortlessly capture direct optical dental impressions in the form of an accurate 3D model.

Not only is intraoral dental 3D scanning faster and safer than the traditional impression trays, it also opens new possibilities for treating patients. The detailed 3D models enable dentists to create perfectly fitting dentures and implants, make accurate surgical plans, design new tools, and more.

Let’s take a look at how dental 3D scanners work and what sets intraoral 3D scanning apart from the other technologies. We’ll also explore the benefits and applications of intraoral scanners.

How Do Dental 3D Scanners Work?

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Dentists’ offices and dental laboratories are rapidly incorporating more and more digital solutions into their practices. These solutions include dental 3D printing, digital patient data archiving, and dental 3D scanners.

There are multiple dental 3D scanning technologies available to dental practices. The three most common include:

Each of these technologies achieves the same basic goal — they help dentists scan and digitize a patient’s jaws and teeth into an accurate 3D model. But the technologies have functional differences that can affect their applicability.

Cone-bean computed tomography (CBCT) is a form of CT scan technology. CBCT machines use X-rays to capture a series of images and combine them into a 3D model. The patient holds their head in place while the CBCT scanner’s imaging systems rotate around their head.

Although CBCT is safer than regular CT scans, it still exposes the patient to some radiation. The whole imaging process takes around 20 minutes, which can be uncomfortable for the patient.

Dental lab scanners are essentially desktop-sized 3D scanners that use light and cameras to scan a physical object into a 3D model. These machines are good for scanning tools and existing dental designs, but they require you to have a physical object. As such, they can’t replace dental mould impressions.

Intraoral scannerscommonly come in the form of a small wand that’s inserted into the patient’s mouth. This way they resemble many other dental tools. At the tip of the scanner is a light-equipped camera that scans the patient’s teeth and mouth into a 3D model.

Intraoral 3D scanners are often one of the easier and more affordable options for dental 3D scanning. Although the initial investment is not insignificant, they are several times cheaper than even small CBCT machines.

Why Your Dentist’s Office Needs an Intraoral 3D Scanner ...

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Intraoral scanners, alongside other dental 3D scanning technologies, offer a significant range of benefits to both dentists and patients. And it’s not just us saying that — peer-reviewed studies also note the advantages dental 3D scanners offer. These benefits include:

  1. Better Dental Imaging: Intraoral scanners beat traditional imaging methods, like moulding trays, in practically every way. The resulting 3D model is more accurate and detailed than anything traditional imaging can produce.
  2. Improved Patient Comfort: Dental patients appreciate not having to bite a tray during imaging. Additionally, intraoral 3D scanners are completely non-invasive and don’t use radiation, which reduces the risk of complications.
  3. Accurate Design: The scanned 3D models’ high detail means dentists can design more accurate dentures, retainers, implants, and other appliances that can reduce the number of follow-up appointments. Combining a 3D scanner with a 3D printer also allows them to rapidly reproduce customized designs.
  4. Time and Cost Efficiency: Intraoral dental scanners are affordable when compared to other 3D scanning technologies. Their quick working speed means dentists can fit more patients into their day, while the high-accuracy scans slash the number of appointments needed to adjust appliances.
  5. Effective Planning: 3D models allow dental practitioners to view the patient’s dental anatomy from any angle, which can help plan for treatments and surgeries. Additionally, it’s easy to produce accurate surgical guides based on the 3D model that help improve operational success rate.
  6. Better Communication: With an accurate, rotatable 3D model, dentists can more easily explain to patients what their issues are and what can be done about them. This can improve communication and build trust between practitioner and patient when both are on the same page.

Applications of Dental 3D Scanning ...

Thanks to the impressive benefits they deliver, intraoral scanners and dental 3D scanning have become the standard in top-quality dental care. Another factor for these technologies’ prevalence is their versatility.

Dental 3D scanners can help dental professionals in practically all aspects of their jobs, including:

Dental Implants

Intraoral 3D scanners create a high-accuracy 3D model that helps dentists review critical information about the size and shape of the patient’s dental anatomy. Based on this data, they can then create perfectly fitting teeth, bridges, dentures, or other implants.

Orthodontic Treatment

During orthodontic treatment, it’s crucial to closely monitor the movement and positioning of the patient’s teeth. Dental 3D scanning makes it fast and easy to get an accurate comparison model that helps dentists adjust braces or retainers as necessary.

Root Canal Treatment

A detailed 3D scans can help dentists more accurately determine what kind of tissue damage they’re dealing with when planning for root canal treatment. As a result, they can more easily target the right areas without causing further damage or pain to the patient.

Oral Surgeries

Dental 3D scanning can significantly improve the success rate of oral surgery. 3D models allow for more careful evaluation of the problem and enables better planning. It’s also easy to produce high-quality surgical guides based on the 3D data.

Appliance and Treatment Development

Accurate 3D scan data helps both practicing dentists and researches develop more effective dental appliances, treatment methods, and tools. It can also enable the production of completely customized oral healthcare items, especially when combined with 3D printing.

Education and Training

It’s easy to share the scanned 3D models between dentists, researchers, and educational institutes. As a result, future dentists can study high-detailed dental models and illustrations that can help them provide better care and improve the standards of medical training.

The Future of Dentistry — Today

It’d be tempting to say that intraoral 3D scanning is the future of dentistry, but that’d be incorrect. It’s not the future — the technology is already in regular use and it’s not going anywhere.

The multiple advantages and wide applicability of dental 3D scanning have made intraoral scanners, such as 3DISC Heron, practically standard equipment in modern dental care. Simply put, they help dentists offer better and more comfortable care for their patients at an affordable price.

Contact the friendly dental 3D scanning experts at Solid Print Dental and learn how your clinic can start using intraoral 3D scanners. Call us on 01926 333 796 or email us at dental@solidprint3d.co.uk.