Interview: “3-D printing makes digital dentistry a reality”
Over the past few years, 3-D printing technology has advanced at an incredible rate, with its application in the healthcare industry correspondingly increasing. Market research company IndustryARC predicts that the global healthcare 3-D printing market will continue to grow by 18.3 per cent annually until 2020. With this in mind, Dental Tribune International spoke with Stephan Winterlik, Sales Manager of Dental Production Printers at 3D Systems, about how this technology can be integrated into dental practices and what he thinks the future of 3-D printing could look like.
What benefits does 3-D printing offer the field of dentistry?
Currently, the majority of dental devices are produced manually, which is very time-consuming and not one hundred per cent accurate. 3-D printing makes digital dentistry a reality. For technology featuring plastics, we see 3-D printing increasingly being used for end-use parts. For example, we can create and print a digital crown, bridge or prostheses without any additional steps—producing a part that can immediately be used in the mouth.
The speed and accuracy that can be achieved with 3-D printing is very impressive. Our aim is to print crowns in 15 minutes and get the results immediately. This avoids time-consuming manual processes and with digitisation, the device or fixture is customised and therefore more likely to fit the first time, improving patient outcome and satisfaction.
Dental providers will start to offer more specific solutions and broader ranges for dental laboratories, which could mean, for example, a plug-and-play solution for metal printing based on a certified workflow that includes automatic nesting, support generation and easier removal solutions for the metal supports as well as CE-certified cobalt-chrome (CoCr) powder for medical devices. Currently, the challenges to adoption are regulatory processes and the limitations of the various printing technologies.
In the European market, do you find that digital CAD/CAM services are more common in orthodontics or in full-service labs?
Every market, country and insurance system is different. I see that the orthodontic market for aligners is best suited to the creation of solutions that reside within the dental office. Certainly, the big aligner companies have seen growth in this area, but we are far from market saturation, so the opportunity for market growth is there.
Large, full-service labs are still growing and adapting to the market and globalisation and digitisation are key trends.
What are some of the largest national markets for dental 3-D printing in Europe? Are there any countries that are adopting these technologies at a high rate?
We consider Germany, Austria, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Great Britain and Scandinavia as pioneers and engines for growth in Europe. However, other countries are following close behind. The main drivers for high growth include a thriving economy, legislation and the distances between the lab, the dental office and the patient. These factors help determine how quickly a market would adopt digital 3-D printing solutions.
What has been the response from dental professionals using 3D Systems' printing technology so far?
Our customers tell us that 3D Systems’ solutions offer superior print speed, surface quality, precision and range of materials. Every day, our focus is on improving what we can offer the dental market and creating 3-D printing solutions that perfectly meet the needs of dental labs, dentists and patients. 3D Systems has invested considerable resources to ensure its materials are ideally suited to the dental industry. For example, last year, we acquired NextDent, a company that has been developing dental materials for the past 40 years.
How do you see the future of the European dental 3-D printing market?
We are excited to be part of the growth of 3-D printing technology in the dental industry. If you think about it, there are 7 billion people in the world and each person has approximately 32 teeth. That equates to 210 billion custom dental devices that could be 3-D printed.
However, it will take some time to develop the perfect material-printer-certification supply chain for the market. 3-D printing is still just starting out in the dental market and over time, new opportunities will present themselves.
Within a 2 to 7-year timeframe, I predict that 3-D printing will become a normal part of the dental environment and will open up new streamlined workflows and possibilities. What’s more, the combination of 3-D printing and milling is key for successful integration.
For us it’s not about the technology, it’s about what the technology offers our customers, which is speed, accuracy and customisation.
Thank you very much for the interview.