Dental: Clear Aligners - Leapfrog Case Study
Posted on July 11 2017
In September 2015, two companies operating in the orthodontic sector started using the Leapfrog Xeed 3D printer for printing scanned teeth that function as a mold for Clear Aligners. Clear Aligners are an alternative to traditional braces and are designed to help guide teeth into their proper position. Similar to braces, Clear Aligners use a gradual force to control tooth movement, but without metal wires or brackets.
Scanning > Aligning > Printing > Thermoforming
Thomas Wais from WRC - Tech Austria & LAB M&W Zahn technique receives gypsum molds of the patient's’ teeth from dentists in Austria. Thomas scans the molds using a 10 micron resolution 3Shape scanner box. In Barcelona, Tessa Limargas from Orthoteam & Esthetic Aligner Team is doing the same, however she uses, besides a scanner box, also a handheld scanner that scans directly into the patient's mouth, skipping the process of making gypsum molds.
In both cases a scan is created from the patient’s teeth, which is loaded into the software program Ortho Analyzer 3Shape to virtually align the patient’s teeth. The virtual model can be printed on a Leapfrog Xeed 3D printer. And finally both companies use a thermoforming machine to press foil over the printed teeth resulting in a Clear Aligner.
Tessa mentions that it depends on the severity of the teeth malposition how long it will take to have teeth aligned. During this period of time, the teeth are aligned in as many stages as needed. For each stage a new print and new foil is necessary. Sometimes more than 6 aligners are necessary depending on the misalignment.
“The reason for us to use the Leapfrog Xeed 3D printer, is that it is a professional Fused Deposition Modeling technique (FDM) 3D printer delivering enough resolution and speed. More importantly is the possibility to place up to 15 ABS models in one print session on the bed. Regular FDM desktop 3D printers often have difficulties printing a single ABS model without warping (shrinking of the plastic) and deforming the print. We have tried printing ABS with a MakerBot FDM desktop 3D printer and failed completely. Warping and deforming is a big issue when printing ABS. But we need ABS material to withstand the pressure and heat created during the thermoforming process.
After a brief training from Leapfrog we were confident enough that the Xeed could do the job. The Xeed is now running 24/7. The main benefit for us is that the Xeed enables us to print our own models instead of using a third party 3D print provider. This increases our efficiency and reduces our production time, making us more independent.”
Thomas Wais explains that when he started exploring the market for a 3D printer at the beginning he was strongly directed towards the Objet 30 using the Polyjet print technique. “However, purchasing costs for this machine were far above my budget, let alone material and maintenance cost of several thousands of Euros annually, necessary to run the Objet machine.
After comparing the specifications of different 3D printers and techniques, my attention was shifted towards the professional, but far more affordable Leapfrog Xeed 3D printer. For comparison; a 3D printed model from an Objet 3D printer would have cost me 15 to 30 Euros, whereas the Xeed 3D printer costs us merely a few Euros per print, taking into account material cost, electricity cost and depreciation of the machine.
Additionally the maintenance of the Xeed (which is almost none) can be performed by a lab member with no technical background and is limited to swapping a nozzle or hot-end once in awhile (compared to changing a toner from a 2D printer). The Xeed saves us between 15K and 20K per year compared to the Objet printer and no downtime is involved since we do not have to stop the production while waiting for maintenance from a certified company. We have been producing successfully for one month already and printed ABS teeth without making any concession on the quality of our products.”
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