I spent some time chatting with South Korea-based Ray, who are developing a sophisticated dental 3D printing system.
Dentists are prime candidates for use of 3D printing technology, because virtually every object they need built is custom-fit to a person’s dental structure. It must fit around their teeth — or sometimes be their teeth.
Dental Lab Production
This work has been done traditionally by dental labs, where models are produced based on casts or sometimes 3D scans taken at dentist offices. The labs operate the equipment and have the lab skills to produce the required models based on that structural information.
The problem is that such lab work requires a number of delays. The structural information must be forwarded to the dental lab, where it enters a queue and eventually gets worked on. Then the resulting objects must be shipped back to the dentist for use in the patient’s mouth.
This sequence of events can take considerable time, perhaps lasting several weeks. During that time the patient should really have been treated. However, due to this dental lab protocol, everyone expects such delays.
Well, that scenario might be not long for the world if Ray has their way.
The company has developed since 2017 a rather sophisticated dental 3D printing system that quite impressed me when I saw it at TCT Show.
It’s not that they’ve somehow discovered an amazing new 3D printing feature and implemented on their device. In fact, their 3D printer is actually little different, functionally, from any other LCD-based desktop resin 3D printer capable of 47 micron resolution.
What is the difference here, then? It’s that they’ve produced an entire SYSTEM of hardware, software and materials that works together to create a seamlessly easy environment for dentists and assistants to use directly.
Because they know that dentists will be producing only a few specific types of objects, like surgical guides, for example, they have vastly simplified the software interface in their Raydent CAD system. Essentially, the dentist simply picks one of the desired object types and it’s ready to print. This is quite unlike a typical resin 3D printer, whose control software must be able to handle arbitrary object types.
Learning RayDent Studio
Ray says it’s possible for any of the dentist’s staff to learn all they need to know about the system in 10-15 minutes.
Let’s have a look at the physical components of their system.
The printer itself, the Raydent Studio, as you can see here sports a rather attractive case, one that would easily fit within any dental office. It almost looks like one of the other dental appliances you might find there. A very sleek design — but inside it’s very similar to any LCD 3D printer.
There’s a separate curing station to finalize the solidification of fresh prints.
Biocompatible Dental Resins
Wait, you ask — where is the cleaning station! Resin 3D printers MUST have cleaning stations to remove the annoying and often toxic leftover resin on the prints.
Nope, no such cleaning station is required because ALL of the Ray system’s materials are fully biocompatible. You can stick your fingers in the resin and it is not toxic. This is clear, because the prints are going in your mouth, remember?
To wash the prints you simply hose them down in any sink.
Now, back to the curing station, the next stop in the dental print lifecycle. This cycle works very rapidly because the curing times are fairly short. Why? Because Ray knows that the only 3D models being produced are of a maximum size — they are only the limited set of dental prints available in the software.
Materials are provided in bottles, and that’s little different from most other resin providers. These resins are, as I said, biocompatible, but they are also specifically designed for the dental functions. If the dentist wants to produce a surgical guide, they use the SG resin. Get it? There is great simplicity here.
3D Printer Resin Packets
The resin is also provided in packets, shown here. These are 20g containers that can be used to produce one dental product. That’s because the dentist may only occasionally use the system and with the packets they don’t worry so much about how much is left in the bottle. Again, they simply pick the right kind of packet and use it.
You can see how they’ve adjusted the normal resin process into something far more amenable to use by dentists with little knowledge of 3D printing.
Same-Day Dental Prints
Print times are relatively fast, not because the 3D printer is fast, but because the objects are small. A crown can be 3D printed in 20-25 minutes, while a full-jaw surgical guide can be done in 40-60 minutes.
Now, think about this for a moment. If they can produce a dental fixture in an hour or less, that is within the time that a patient is frozen. Thus, they can potentially diagnose and service the problem in the same dentist visit!
Finally, Ray has priced the system at a relatively low price: €5,000 (US$5,500) for the hardware and €3,200 (US$3,500) for the software. That is well within the budgets of many dentists, who could likely save costs of dental labs and associated administration by using the Ray system.
This is an outstanding example of how to adapt 3D printing technology to become highly useful in a very specific environment.