Brooklyn-based 3D printer startup Arfona has come up with a unique solution for dental applications: the r.Pod, and it could signal bad news for many dental 3D printer companies.
There are tons of 3D printers designed for the dental market, but they all have one thing in common: they are expensive, resin-based solutions. They definitely work very well, but I’ve found that some companies take great liberty in marking up the price of liquid resin for their machines.
Most, if not all of the specialty dental 3D printers require proprietary resin: it’s photo-curable resin that’s tuned to match the hardware and software of the 3D printer, but this situation enables the vendor to completely control the price. As such, they sometimes mark up the price by 10X over what it could be, at least as we were told by a resin manufacturer.
Now the situation could dramatically change as Arfona’s new machine, the r.Pod, could shake things up.
Their dental machine DOES NOT USE RESIN! Instead it uses relatively inexpensive plastic filament in the commonly found extrusion process.
But how are they able to do this? The resin machines were typically used for dental applications because they were able to produce smooth objects suitable for use in, well, your mouth. That means medical certification of the materials and equipment used.
There have been two changes to this situation: first, inexpensive desktop 3D printers have gradually been improving in resolution - and therefore smoothness. Early desktop units were able to produce layers around 0.400mm, which was indeed pretty coarse, but more recently it’s become common to see desktop equipment able to produce 0.050mm or even 0.020mm layers, many times finer.
It seems that that folks at Arfona realized this and enabled their machine with another critical feature: certification! They explain:
Arfona, a Brooklyn 3D printing startup and Valplast, a dental materials manufacturer have entered into a joint distribution agreement that brings extrusion based 3D printing to the dental industry with the introduction of the r.Pod® Desktop 3D Printer. A fused filament printer, r.Pod® prints partial dentures, dental models, custom impression trays and soft tissue gingiva for implant models. The new r.Pod® printer is the only 3D printer optimized and approved for printing Valplast®, the leading brand of flexible nylon resin for partial dentures and appliances.
This is something no other desktop unit seems to have. With this capability a dental operation could theoretically avoid substantial costs incurred by existing dental 3D printing equipment, at least for some procedures.
The r.Pod, as it is called, seems visually similar to the MakerBot Replicator design, which, we are certain is a complete and total coincidence, was also designed in Brooklyn.
You can pre-order an r.Pod for USD$4,995, which is apparently discounted from their normal suggested price of USD$6,498. More than the price of a typical desktop 3D printer, but still far less than industrial dental 3D printing options.