3D-printing and digital models are gaining momentum in the dental industry. As a part of the digital workflow, 3D-printed models enable a more efficient workflow for dentists as well as dental technicians. Also, the method often results in more accurate end-results, beneficial for the patients. Stefan Remplbauer at 3D Medical Print produces 3D-printed models on a daily basis and is confident that 3D-printing and a digital workflow is the future within dentistry.
Hi, Stefan! How and when did you start working with 3D-printed models?
Back in 2012, I was working as a dental technician in my own lab. I did a lot of work using the digital aligner technology and I was struggling to find good quality printed or milled models to work with. I looked everywhere and tried out countless models offered from various companies. However, I could not find a company that produced models that were exact enough to get good results in the aligner foils. That was when I decided to produce the models myself. The printed models you could buy back then had poor quality, and the milled models were often inaccurate. Since those options were out of the question, I started looking for a 3D-printer that would meet my quality needs and allow me to produce models for a reasonable price. So, in December 2012, 3D Medical Print was founded and I started producing 3D-printed models in January 2013.
That is impressive! Can you tell me more about 3D Medical Print?
Yes, 3D Medical Print is located in Lenzing, Austria, and our main customers are dental technicians and dentists. As a dental technician with years of experience working with dentists, I am well aware of the needs of both parties. When contacting us, dental technicians are looking for a precise model with the right dimensions, which they can work a long time with without wearing it down. For dentists, 3D-printing offers surgical drill guides, which are printed from a biocompatible material. These guides reduce the risk of hitting a nerve while drilling, enhancing safety for both the dentist and the patient.
What are the advantages of using 3D-printing in the dental industry?
Compared to a plaster model, a 3D-model is a more stable, durable and precise alternative. The lines and edges on a 3D-model stay sharp without the dental technician having to worry about wearing them down. Compared to a milled model, a 3D-printed model has a more complex structure with a higher level of detail. 3D-printed implant models are definitely our best selling product at the moment. They come with high-quality removable dies and a unique flexible and removable gingiva mask. The gingiva mask is made of a soft, gum-like material, which lets the dental technician perform the work almost as if it was done directly in the patient’s mouth.
One of the most important advantages with 3D-printing is definitely that it saves the dental technician a lot of time. After the dentist has performed an intra-oral scanning on the patient, the dentist sends a digital copy of the scanning to a dental lab or a 3D-printing company. The digital copy is received in minutes, since it is sent electronically. The technician can start working as soon as the copy of the scanning arrives. Also, it provides a clean workplace for the technician, without having to deal with plaster or inhale grinding dust.
Although 3D-printing has been around for more than 20 years, it is fairly new to the dental industry. However, the field of 3D-printing in the dental industry is growing wider and wider, and I believe the development of 3D-printing is the most exciting development in the industry today. The additive production process of 3D-printing brings numerous advantages and opportunities when creating dental products.
That sounds promising! How does 3D-printing benefit the patient and the end-result?
3D-printing is a part of the digital workflow that is becoming more and more common in the dental industry. A digital workflow starts with the dentist taking an intra-oral scanning of the patient’s mouth before sending the scanned copy to a dental technician. The intra-oral scanning is more patient-friendly than the conventional method of letting the patient bite in the impression material, which most patients find unpleasant and sometimes even nauseating. In addition, the conventional method can affect the imprint in a negative way depending on for example how long the impression material is left in the mouth.
Besides giving the patient a more comfortable experience, a digital workflow ending with a 3D-print often results in a more accurate end-result, leaving out possible mistakes and inaccuracies that can easily come with conventional impressions.
Can you describe your cooperation with Elos Medtech?
First and foremost, we are very proud of our cooperation with Elos Medtech. We have bundled our experiences in the dental industry and formed our cooperation together, which resulted in Elos Accurate® Model. The model is a high-quality implant model with a gingiva mask, a removable neighbour tooth and one original Elos Medtech analog already fitted into the model, offered for a package price.
I think Elos Medtech has great products thanks to their design philosophy. I visited their production last year and I was really impressed by the fully open and structured workflow. Elos Medtech has a wide digital product portfolio and are focused in the development of new innovative digital solutions. For us, our cooperation with Elos Medtech was a step in the right direction. Since the field of digital dentistry and dental 3D-printing is quite young, it is always valuable to exchange ideas, thoughts and problems with specialists in the same field. I believe we complement and learn from each other, which in the end always benefit our customers.
To sum it up – how does the future look like for 3D-printing in the dental industry?
3D-printing is definitely the future of the dental industry. 3D-printing offers many opportunities and a lot of new exciting ways to make life easier for patients, dentists and dental technicians. Also, 3D-printing could be used for many more things that we do not even think of yet. For example, it could be used for guided sinus elevation and operation planning. They already use 3D-printed models of organs to simulate and plan risky operations beforehand, and I am sure this will be a part of the future in the dental industry as well.
The future of 3D-printing in the dental industry goes hand in hand with the development of digital dentistry and a digital workflow. The imprint of the patient’s mouth must be sent to the dental technician digitally to be able to transform it into a 3D-model. Luckily, the digital workflow is becoming more and more common and we are very excited to see where the road will take us. My own dream is to 3D-print a colour model, that looks exactly like the intra-oral scan with its real colours.
That sounds like a great thing to look forward to. Hopefully, your dream comes true! Thank you, Stefan, for a lovely chat.
I hope you enjoyed reading my interview with Stefan about 3D-printing and digital models in the dental industry. Would you like to know more about digital dentistry and the digital workflow? Do not miss our blog articles Digital Impression Technique in The Dental Industry, How Digital Dentistry Can Help Simplify The Digital Workflow, Dental libraries simplify the design of dental implant solutions as well as part 1-4 in our article series about Improving Dental Care Through Digitalization.