3d printingIt seems that 3D printing is all the rage right now. There have been articles and news reports about this fascinating technology being talked about all over the place. Even though 3D printing technology has been used for over 10 years, the technology seems to be more prevalent now. Although in the past, it was used to create only prototypes – now it is being used to create medical devices, car parts, jewelry and much more.

3D Printing and the Future of Dentistry

I first became aware of 3D printing technology when I was able to send my dental impressions for restorations digitally to the laboratory. Many times, the restorations could be fabricated without a model. However, there were cases where a physical model would be needed. The lab would have a model created from the digital information by using a method called stereolithography (SLA). Acrylate plastic is used to make the model. The process creates the model in layers as a laser interacts with the photo-reactive plastic. It is a very fascinating process.

3D printing is beginning to work its way into all our lives. We'll take a look at some of those in upcoming articles. What are your thoughts on the 3D printing process? Feel free to share your comments below!

Mark J. Fleming, DDS, Spear Visiting Faculty and Contributing Author.

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Commenter's Profile Image Pamela Waterman (@BracesFriendly)
February 12th, 2015
Amazing progress, yes, as the early hype went away and the manufacturers quietly kept working. The quality of 3D printing has improved in so many ways that the number of dental/orthodontic applications is surpassed only by the use for hearing-aid manufacturing. It's been awesome to see the development of better materials, targeted dental-app software and faster build speeds across the board from companies like 3D Systems, Stratasys (Solidscape), EOS and Envisiontec. The fine skills inherent in dental labs makes them a perfect match for operating these systems round the clock, whether for wax, resin or plaster models or actual 3D-printed metal dental copings.