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Scan > Design > Print > Prepare
3D printing is the catalyst for digital dentistry. It’s known for reliability and high quality. Much has changed since the first desktop 3D printers became available to the dental industry. A few years ago, 3D printers were only affordable to the largest dental labs, now they are a common sight in labs and practices of any size. Dental 3D printers feature a light or laser that polymerize a liquid with the computer-guided precision required to produce small objects with intricate details.
The dental 3D printing workflow has four-steps:
Dental 3D printers can produce applications such as:
Additive manufacturing is making digital dentistry a no-nonsense business choice, combining high quality and improved patient care with low unit costs and streamlined workflows.
Today, three 3D printing technologies are common in dental: stereolithography (SLA), digital light processing (DLP) and material jetting. Each technology can deliver the precision and accuracy needed for dental applications, but quality can vary among different machines and systems.
1. Stereolithography (SLA) – liquid resin is selectively exposed to a laser beam across the print area, solidifying resin in specific areas. Stereolithography is highly accurate and has the best surface finish of the three technologies. SLA printers offer large build volumes and a wide range of materials for various applications. Switching materials is as easy as swapping the resin tank and cartridge. The combination of small footprint, simple workflow and low price make desktop SLA printers well-suited for both dental labs and practices.
2. Digital Light Processing (DLP) – Digital light processing operates with the same chemical process as SLA but uses a digital projector as a light source to solidify the resin, rather than a laser. DLP printers have a small footprint, simple workflow and wide range of material options, but at a substantially higher cost than desktop SLA printers. DLP parts also tend to show voxel lines—layers formed by small rectangular bricks due to digital screen—and have a generally lower quality surface finish.
3. Material Jetting – Material jetting (PolyJet and MultiJet Modeling) 3D printers work similarly to inkjet printing, but instead of jetting drops of ink onto paper, they jet layers of liquid resin onto a build tray and cure them instantly using light. Material jetting technologies were the most common in the dental industry a few years ago, but expansion was limited by their high cost and the large size of the machines. They require extensive post-processing and the surface finish of parts produced with this technology is generally inferior to SLA or DLP. Material jetting systems have high throughput but can only be used for a limited range of applications due to the costly, proprietary materials.
Dental 3D printers can start at a few thousand dollars for resin desktop 3D printers (SLA or DLP) ot up to tens of thousands of dollars for metal 3D printers designed for direct production. Some manufacturers only make dental 3D printers while other have developed specific dental product lines.
Entry-level desktop SLA or DLP 3D printers start around $1,000 and can be used to produce molds using a special casting resin. Industrial-grade dental additive manufacturing systems can cost up to tens of thousands of dollars. Dental 3D printers’ prices vary based on several factors:
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