3D Printing and the Democratization of Manufacturing

by Larry Emmott on December 5, 2012

in CAD CAM,Future Tech,Theraputics

 We have been doing this is dentistry forever:

Fu said that “all markets in the future will be niche markets” while Weijmarshausen said “the future of manufacturing is not making a lot of a few, but a few of a lot.”

via Techonomy: 3D Printing and the Democratization of Manufacturing.

In many ways dentistry is the business of manufacturing customized one-of-a-kind items. This includes everything from a simple filling built in place to a complex removable denture with cast metal and processed acrylic custom fitted to a patient’s mouth.

(By the way one of the things I’ve secretly enjoyed about being a dentist is that I can make things from metal and acrylic that most people can’t.)

With this heritage it is no surprise that dentistry pioneered digital manufacturing techniques. The first commercial CEREC units were sold in 1985.

Just like word processing and digital photography completely changed the printing and publishing industries, 3D printing will completely change the manufacture of goods, including dental prosthesis. Right now consumer 3D printers like MakerBot are available for $2,000 to $3,000. They are not yet equipped to create acceptable dental restorations but there is no reason to believe they won’t be perfectly capable of creating them in the near future. At the very least the technology being developed for consumer products will transfer to dental products making them better and cheaper.

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Brian Smith December 6, 2012 at 6:35 am

At the ADA, in the Tech Expo, the company immediately across from us was Global Dental Science, LLC, who had won an award for their “digital dentures” – made completely by a 3D printer! They looked fantastic, and when I asked about the materials, he said advances within the last year (in 3D printing) are now allowing even metal to be “printed” this way!

You’ve got to wonder about the future of CEREC-like machines, if 3D printing will soon be able to make inlays, onlays and crowns, on a machine 1/10th the cost.

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