Formlabs has made several moves to cement their position in the dental 3D printing industry.
Dental is one of the key target markets for many 3D printer manufacturers, as it has several key characteristics that lend very well to 3D printing technology:
Everyone needs dental work, so there’s constant demand
All parts are literally customized per individual, making 3D printing the only digital process possible
Dental pricing is relatively high, making it financally feasible for the industry to afford 3D printing solutions
Because of these factors there has been a battle between vendors to capture as much of the dental market as possible. Years ago the field was dominated by several vendors offering somewhat expensive, but still well-accepted solutions. However, a few short years ago this market was disrupted by Formlabs, who pivoted their general purpose SLA 3D printer into the dental industry.
Formlabs Dental Focus
That move proved highly successful, as Formlabs subsequently grew significantly. In fact, they now say:
“According to a Key Group survey, Formlabs is the most installed 3D printer for small, medium and large sized dental labs.”
That’s quite an accomplishment for a company relatively new to this industry, and one dominated by several other major players until now. A big factor in this disruption was the price level of the Form 2 and 3 devices, which was significantly lower than the competition. Cash is king in the dental industry, apparently.
Today Formlabs announced several moves to deepen their hold on the dental industry. Three things have happened:
First, Formlabs is organizing a Dental Business Unit that will focus on the industry more directly, to be named “Formlabs Dental”. This is evidence of the strong revenues received by Formlabs from dental operations, so much so that they now have a separate business unit. It also allows decision making within Formlabs to be tightly focused on the needs of dental operators.
Form 3B Dental 3D Printer
The second move is the announcement of a new 3D printer, the Form 3B. We don’t know much about the new device, aside that it is somehow specialized for dental operations, and is likely a modification of the current flagship generla purpose 3D printer from Formlabs, the Form 3.
It may be that the majority of the specialization has to do with the software associated with the Form 3B. Formlabs explains:
“This one printer allows for a growing list of more than 10+ dental applications. Users can switch seamlessly between a library of resins with a no-hassle cartridge system. Each application is validated and tested by a team of dental experts to ensure quality and accuracy, including;
Crown and bridge models
Clear aligner and retainer models
Patterns for casting and pressing
Dentures with 4 base and 6 tooth shades”
Formlabs Dental Materials Improvements
The third move is in materials. Formlabs has acquired their long time resin supplier and built out a new facility for them to produce an increasing variety and quantity of dental-compatible 3D printing resins. Formlabs boasts of “50 materials scientists” ready to manage the current resins and develop new versions for new applications, including dental.
A new “partner program” is being established to allow third parties with unique dental resins to gain access to the growing Formlabs dental ecosystem. This presumably would enable these vendors to use standard resin cartridges in the Form 3B device, rather than “experimental mode”, which would be unnecessarily complicating for dental operators.
Formlabs CEO and founder Max Lobovsky said:
“When patients visit the dentist, they want a fast, customized solution for their teeth. Our new Form 3B printer is uniquely tailored to seamlessly digitize, streamline and expedite workflow so dentists and technicians can focus on providing patients with the outcomes they expect and deserve. We have already touched the lives of over hundreds of thousands of patients, having printed 13 million dental parts on the Form 2 and, with the launch of Form 3B, aim to expand that reach even further to ensure all dental care providers can bring an exceptional level of attention to their patients.”
These are very dramatic moves and should allow Formlabs’ dental operations to expand even more quickly. I’m wondering how the competing dental 3D printing vendors will react.