The dental lab industry is very aware of open versus closed systems when it comes to scanners and milling systems, but did you know this also applies to 3D printers? Additive manufacturing, otherwise known as 3D printing, is gaining a lot of traction in the lab industry and rightfully so. I was talking to a competitor last week that sells 3Shape lab scanners and Trios intra-oral scanners and he said their intra-oral scanner sales have eclipsed their lab scanner sales.
As the IO scanners gain popularity with the dentists, there will be some dentists that go modeless, but for the near future people are still going to want a model. Then there is also the printing of surgical guides, splints, custom impression trays and cast material that will also continue to gain popularity. This will lead a lot of labs that haven’t already purchased a 3D printer to start looking into it over the next 18 months.
Open vs. Closed 3D Printing System
When looking into 3D printers there is a difference between open and closed. A closed 3D printer is a system that you can only use the manufacturer's resin. 3D Systems and Stratasys are two manufacturer's that developed their systems to only be able to except their proprietary resins making them closed systems. There are other systems on the market that utilize the DLP printing capabilities that could be open, but do not publish the material files or allow access to the software to change the print parameters in essence closing the system.
As many of you may be aware, Whip Mix has been evaluating several printers over the last two years. It was during this time that we started to realize we needed to understand what the industry has told us, and that is most labs prefer an open system. Open material 3D printers allow you to print any suitable material from any supplier. If a resin can be UV cured at 385 or 405 nanometers, it can be printed in an open source material printer. This type of printer will give a lab material options. We are developing our own line of resins for open material systems to go along with other resins that are currently on the market for these types of 3D printers.
Whip Mix Corporation has recently become the exclusive North American distributor of Asiga 3D printers, and yes it is an open material source 3D printer. It is an exciting time in our industry and we are very excited to be associated with this line of printers. As the full digital circle from clinic to lab and back is completed this line of printers is going to give labs the options they are used to having.