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BEGO is a modern company with 130 years of dental expertise that has made a name for itself in 3D printing—most recently with the introduction of the world’s first tooth-coloured, ceramic-filled hybrid material, VarseoSmile Crown plus, for the 3D printing of definitive restorations. In this interview, Thomas Kwiedor, head of business development for 3D printing at BEGO, speaks about the advantages of 3D printing compared with current digital dental solutions and about the benefits it brings for dentists, dental technicians and patients.
Mr Kwiedor, 3D printing is often described as the most innovative manufacturing technology of the future. Is that your assessment?
Yes, in my opinion, 3D printing is the most important manufacturing method of the future. Based on this conviction, we at BEGO have utilised 3D-printing technology from a very early stage, although we ourselves did not call it 3D printing 20 years ago. I am talking about selective laser melting (SLM), in which frameworks are additively built up from a metal powder using a laser beam. We pioneered this 3D-printing process with metal powder for the dental sector, making the CAD-supported, fully automated production of crown and bridge frameworks possible early on.
For us, milling is only a kind of bridging technology, which is why we have at all times resisted the temptation to offer milling machines for decentralised production. Over the last two decades, we have invested heavily in the development of customised solutions for dental 3D printing, not only with metal powder but also with resins and ceramic-filled hybrid materials, in order to enable users to produce a wide variety of dental restorations.
What do you regard as the advantages of 3D printing over milling, which you described as a kind of bridging technology?
Today, 3D printing already offers the possibility of quickly and inexpensively producing, for example, aesthetic crowns for temporary and permanent retention in the patient’s mouth. 3D printing is superior to subtractive or milling techniques not only because of freedom of design but also because of efficiency, as it is much more resource-effective. Compared with milling, the investment costs for 3D-printing technology are also significantly lower. Already today, there are powerful 3D printers on the market that require only a fraction of the usually high five- or even six-figure acquisition costs for milling units. 3D printing is therefore suitable for all users who want to produce high-quality dental restorations with contemporary and future-oriented technologies while keeping investment costs low and thus avoiding the risk of a bad investment. This is particularly relevant as technologies are developing ever more rapidly and becoming obsolete after only a few years.
Last year, BEGO caused a sensation in the 3D printing area by introducing VarseoSmile Crown plus. What are the performance features of 3D-printed restorations made out of this material?
VarseoSmile Crown plus is the world’s first ceramic-filled hybrid material for the 3D printing of permanent restorations. It has been given 510(k) clearance by the US Food and Drug Administration and fulfils all the requirements for a Class II medical device. Restorations made of VarseoSmile Crown plus are characterised by high aesthetics, a low ageing and discoloration tendency, and high patient comfort. VarseoSmile Crown plus is offered in seven shades according to the proven VITA classical shade system. At the end of this year, we will also be adding a bleach shade to the portfolio. The high bond strength of the material with luting composites prevents decementation and thus reduces the risk of secondary caries formation.
Renowned universities and institutes have tested the long-term performance of 3D-printed restorations made of VarseoSmile Crown plus and confirmed the excellent properties of the material. The results of these studies are available for download from our website.
VarseoSmile Crown plus restorations possess natural aesthetics, as well as a low ageing and discoloration tendency. (Image: BEGO)
In what aspects are 3D-printed crowns made of VarseoSmile Crown plus superior to milled crowns made of hybrid ceramics?
Here again, the main issue is efficiency. Thanks to full integration into the digital workflow and low material costs, a permanent crown can be printed with a material input of about US$2 and, depending on the printer, in significantly less than an hour! Patients thus receive direct, permanent restorations in just one session. These restorations are not only affordable but also highly aesthetic and long-lasting.
Can only permanent crowns be printed with VarseoSmile Crown plus, or does it work for other types of restoration?
VarseoSmile Crown plus can be used for 3D printing not only crowns but also inlays, onlays, tabletops, veneers and veneers on metal frameworks—in each case for permanent retention in the patient’s mouth.
The multi-talented character of our material is also expressed in the fact there is a wide range of compatible 3D printers for which the use of VarseoSmile Crown plus is approved. We want to make our innovative material available to as many users as possible—including those who do not own a 3D printer from the BEGO Varseo printer family. Therefore, we have also recently entered into partnerships with well-known 3D printer manufacturers, such as SprintRay, which specialise in 3D-printing technologies. We are continuously working to qualify VarseoSmile Crown plus and other materials from our 3D-printing portfolio for other printer partners as well.
For some time now, 3D printing has been used more and more for the production of provisional restorations. What solutions do you offer for this?
Since the beginning of 2019, we have offered a special resin, VarseoSmile Temp, for the 3D printing of short- and long-term temporary restorations, and we can definitely confirm that this trend for the use of 3D-printing technology for temporary restorations is growing. The range of indications for our resin, which is also a tooth-coloured biocompatible Class IIa material, includes 3D-printed crowns, inlays, onlays and veneers as well as bridges with a design length of up to seven units. With VarseoSmile Temp, very aesthetic restorations can be realised that also feature high strength and thus provide a precise and dimensionally stable fit in the patient’s mouth. These have significant advantages over conventional direct temporary restorations. We have received feedback from a large number of customers informing us that they also love to use the material for try-ins or mock-ups in order to give patients an impression of the shape, functionality and aesthetics of their future final prosthetic restoration.
What can be expected for the future of 3D printing?
The potential that 3D printing offers now and will offer in the future is enormous. We ourselves are currently working intensively on a material that enables the 3D printing of artificial teeth.
One area that will certainly be exciting is that of multi-material and multi-colour printing, which among other things, will make it possible to reproduce the light-optical properties of natural teeth in the best possible way. In the future, we will also encounter material combinations that enable different properties within one material. It can also be assumed that the automation of individual work steps, such as post-processing, will be further professionalised.
What can IDS 2021 attendees expect at the BEGO booth?
Visitors can definitely look forward to meeting our BEGO experts, who can hardly wait to be there again in person for our customers and for interested parties from Germany and abroad. At IDS, we will, of course, take the opportunity to demonstrate our unique 3D-printing material solutions. We want to point out and discuss with visitors how dental professionals and dental technicians can best integrate them into their daily work and how they and their patients can benefit from the offered solutions. A special highlight will be the presentation of the wide range of our partners’ 3D printers compatible with our materials. But that’s not all. Although 3D printing will be the focus of our IDS presence, visitors can also look forward to experiencing product improvements and innovations from BEGO’s broad portfolio of digital solutions. Information will be available on intra-oral scanning, BEGO Semados implant solutions and various CAD/CAM prosthetic options as well as service offerings. All those who would like to find out more about our BEGO solutions in the run-up to the International Dental Show, or who will not be on site in Cologne themselves, can find all information on our website. We really are looking forward to IDS 2021, and invite all dentists and dental technicians to join us on the journey to success.
Editorial note: IDS visitors can experience BEGO’s dental solutions at Booth M010—N019 in Hall 10.2.