Thinking about 3D Printing? What do you really need to start 3D printing in your practice?

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This article is sponsored content brought to you by K-Lab Digital Solutions.

As digital dentistry progresses, there is an ever-increasing number of possible workflows to achieve that beautifully printed model or appliance. Of course, you need a printer, but what else?  What are the main factors to consider?

Here are 4 critical steps to consider when planning your 3d printing workflow:

Data Collection and Refinement

An intra-oral scanner is essential for collecting the data required.  This data needs to be refined into a printable file (something with “volume” which an intra oral scan does not offer.)  Many scanners now come with software to quickly create a model for printing, without the added cost/ extra process of another software.  To get more advanced models, or appliances (splints, surgical guides etc.)  you will need to look to another software option which may be a pay per download, subscription, or purchase.

The Print

Printers come with nesting software enabling you to set how the model is printed.  The “layer thickness” chosen will dictate the print time vs print quality.   The printer you purchase will vary in both accuracy and speed, so research is important.

Washing

Once the printer has finished, you’ll be left with a wet sticky piece of plastic that needs to be removed from the build platform and cleaned in Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA).  This requires, at a minimum, 2 sealable containers of IPA but could also be an ultrasonic cleaner or printer specific wash station. This is one area where you pay for convenience more than performance.

Post Curing

By post curing in a UV light box, the print gets it final curing for hardness and dimensional stability.  Depending on your printer and resin, your options range from a simple UV light chamber to a system specific curing unit that may offer nitrogen or heating options. In this step the print will be subject to heat and a dimensional change. It is important to follow the resin manufacturer’s instructions to achieve an accurate and sometimes biocompatible result.     

Printer and Resin Choices

Outside of factors like price, speed and build volume, your choice essentially comes down to openness vs ease of use.  The more closed the system, the less chance of errors. However, a more open system will increase flexibility to adapt to changes, circumvent problems and integrate new outcomes.

The ability to choose your preferred type of resin provides the opportunity to not only reduce ongoing costs but can also mean the difference between introducing a new workflow or printing at all. This can be seen when printer brands restrict use to their own materials. This can quickly become problematic if you dislike the manufacturer’s offerings/resin properties, or there is supply shortage. It also becomes problematic when alternate brand releases a newer resin with superior properties to that of the offering you are locked into.  

The underlying factor of this is biocompatibility and TGA approval, which are indeed tied to the machine/ workflow.  With an ever-increasing number of third-party resins becoming available and approved for multiple printers, this is a very important factor.  

When researching, a third-party resin should not only reduce ongoing consumable costs but do so without compromising quality or workflow.

Open printers are becoming a more desirable proposition to facilitate businesses in supply options and material choices.  The ability to change and manipulate work flows to suit ever changing technology and patient outcomes continues to rank of high importance within a dental practice or lab.  

Greg Baker

Dental Technician

CAD CAM specialist

Owner K-Lab Digital Solutions

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