Given that the dental additive manufacturing (AM) sector is currently the most mature, the competition for increasingly cutting-edge tools is heating up. Firms across the segment are demonstrating these new wares at IDS 2023, March 14-18, at Koelnmesse in Cologne, Germany. This includes 3D printing pioneer 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD), which is introducing its latest dental 3D printer, the NextDent LCD1, along with two new materials, NextDent Base and NextDent Cast.
The NextDent LCD1 is meant to be a compact, user-friendly 3D printer for small office environments with low volume, compared to the larger dental labs that require larger, batch production machines like 3D Systems’ NextDent 5100. Whereas the NextDent 5100 was based on the company’s Figure 4 continuous digital light processing (DLP) technology, the NexDent LCD1 relies on an LCD light engine, seemingly marking 3D Systems’ foray into the masked stereolithography (mSLA) space. Typically, LCDs greatly reduce the cost of these types of printers, which get passed on to the user, but 3D Systems hasn’t disclosed the price of the machine.
The NextDent LCD1 would seem to replace previous traditional SLA machines, the ProJet 1200, the sub-$5,000 dental printer discontinued last decade, and the FabPro 1000, is no longer being marketed toward dental users after the success of the NextDent 5100. The NextDent LCD1is said to print at three times the speed of SLA machines, while offering parts with smooth surface finish.
Along with the new printer are two new materials. NextDent Base is meant for 3D printing all varieties of removable denture bases. The third generation of denture base material, this resin is said to have excellent mechanical properties, including “high break resistance and robust printability.” The company suggests that the material is comparable to conventual denture base materials in terms of how long they will last and their impact to resistance. NextDent Cast is an easy burn-out resin for RPDs, crowns, and bridges.
3D Systems is already highly competitive in the dental space through its popular NextDent equipment and a large portfolio of resins. Additionally, its partnership with Align Technologies, has given it market dominance in the manufacturing of clear dental aligners, with 3D Systems’ SLA machines used to produce patient-specific dental molds for creating Invisalign braces. Due to the poor quality and performance of the ProJet 1200, it wasn’t able to quite conquer the desktop dental space. However, the new NextDent LCD1 should allow the company to regain a foothold in that segment.
According to the Additive Manufacturing in Dentistry report from SmarTech Analysis, as of 2019, 3D Systems was estimated to control 18 percent of dental printer revenues, and 10 percent of the total dental printer install base. Its subsidiary, Vertex Global, was thought to control 21 percent of the materials market for dental 3D printing, as well.
The LCD1, therefore, represents a necessary means of securing the dental office segment, which is certainly being challenged by a variety of players. This includes Stratasys, which just released an inkjet 3D printer and material for the direct printing of full-color dentures. That feat, long in the making, will be difficult to beat, and certainly not with SLA-type processes. Meanwhile, DWS has a novel solution for realistic dental devices made chairside.
However, to remain truly competitive, it will be necessary for these firms to achieve costs that can take on the slew of low-priced entrants from China, many of which rely on LCD technology. If the price point for the NextDent LCD1 is low enough, while the quality is high enough, Western users will surely go for the name brand product with the history of dental regulation.
Dental users can check out 3D Systems’ entire portfolio of digital dentistry solutions, including these latest innovations at its IDS booth (Hall 3.1, Booth K010/L010) this week.