By Rik Jacobs, VP & General Manager Dental at 3D Systems
Last year I published an article on LinkedIn: “3D Printing: Sustainable Additive Innovations Transforming the Dental Industry.” In this article, I shared my vision and journey to redefine digital dentistry with innovations in additive technology. It summarizes 10 years of advancements that have culminated in the NextDent 5100 – a plug-and-play system with a trusted connection, hardware, firmware, software and biocompatible, certified dental materials.
Beyond biocompatibility, the most important requirement for a dental technology or product is quality assurance in terms of accuracy and fit. In order to improve oral care, predictable quality and the performance of a medical device is necessary. As a result, the dental industry has transitioned from cumbersome analog solutions to digital subtractive technologies. In looking at analog versus digital techniques, it was obvious to me that stable quality became more predictable with the use of the scanning and software solutions that have been introduced over the last several years. Yet with all the benefits these digital subtractive solutions have brought to the industry, they have essentially hit their limits. This is why an additive solution made so much sense to me after more than 20 years in the dental industry.
Additive manufacturing brings complete freedom of design enabling complex geometries that are unattainable with subtractive solutions. The speed at which parts are created can be up to 4X faster for different indications often at lower cost than possible with subtractive. Finally, with subtractive solutions environmental waste can be many times larger than the weight of the part itself; and near zero with additive solutions. These reasons reinforced my belief that additive manufacturing was the perfect technology for multiple dental applications: models, surgical guides, try-ins, dentures, long-term temporaries, copings, frames, trays and orthodontics. In any dental lab or clinic, the technicians could be addressing several of these in any given day. Additive manufacturing solutions provide the flexibility to address multiple applications and just-in-time production. This was the motivation for producing the NextDent 5100 solution. I saw the need for a robust quality dental production printer with rapid printing speeds, flexibility to change materials, ease-of-use, and biocompatible certified materials.
In the months after Lab Day 2018, we were busy optimizing the NextDent 5100 printer and materials with feedback from our global beta testers to ensure that once shipped, the printer would fulfill our promise and perform in accordance with the intended use. Through this collaboration with our beta testers, the advancements we’ve been able to make in the last 12 months are comparable to what the dental industry achieved in the 10 years that preceded them.
I couldn’t have been prouder when we shipped our first NextDent 5100s to our end users, and have been delighted with the reports from labs and clinics on how it’s transforming workflows and capabilities. Much of the feedback was validation of the benefits and outcomes we anticipated in terms of speed, accuracy and cost. Even more exciting, however was all the positive activity in regards to things we hadn’t even thought of. For example, we saw the birth of the “NextDent Users’ Group” on social media without any intervention on behalf of 3D Systems. This user group is comprised of thousands of bright dental industry professionals who share their experiences and knowledge with one another. We’ve seen this group experimenting with new indications in light of the NextDent 5100’s capabilities resulting in impressive applications such as staged printing or new indications like full arch implant bridges and dentures on implants.
A successful worldwide distribution would not have been possible without our highly knowledgeable and responsive resellers, who are also qualified as certified medical device distributors. We made a conscious decision as part of our strategy to only work with qualified, certified dental and medical device distributors. Additionally, we chose resellers who have proven themselves to be experienced dental CAD/CAM service providers. We believe the certification, experience and expertise will help ensure our customers will receive the highest levels of service and support as they incorporate the NextDent 5100 to transform their workflows. I am confident we selected the right resellers by following our rigorous qualification procedure.
While our 3D Systems NextDent team has been convinced for several years that the market was ready for our solution, we were glad to see proof of our conviction through a number of unsolicited external validation points:
- In the top 10 list of new dental products for 2018, the top 4 were all newly launched 3D printers, which proves this industry-changing technology has been making a huge impact. (DentalCompare)
- 3D printers were named the second leading technology (after digital x-ray sensors) in the category “Running Away in 2018.” This category of products dominated media coverage and received the most attention throughout the year. 3D printing only missed out on being number one by a handful of hits. Much like cone beam systems, 3D printers hold the possibility of shaking up restorative, orthodontic, implant, and general dentistry in countless ways. (DentalCompare)
- Traditional lines are being blurred for dental care providers due to the consolidation going on by Dental Service Organizations, as well as within clinical and lab settings.
- The Dentalcompare “most popular dental article of 2018” focused on 3D printing. In fact it was a Q&A with me that occurred shortly after we announced the NextDent 5100 at Lab Day 2018. This was validation that people were keenly interested in the solution we were bringing to the market.
- Advancements in key areas like scanning, software, materials – combined with the 3D printing quality of the NextDent 5100 – enable the accuracy required for 3D printing to reach the tipping point in the dental industry in 2018.
This is all to say that the timing of the NextDent 5100 printer could not have been better. We formulated new biocompatible materials to take advantage of unparalleled printer accuracy and speed delivered by the most experienced 3D Printing OEM. We implemented a scanning system with a matrix code on the bottle to show relevant authorities that we have secured our certification approval so labs and clinics can have complete confidence in their work. We integrated 3D Systems’ 3D Sprint software, which we optimized for ease-of-use and with a trusted connection with dental software suppliers. Then, in the second half of 2018 we received the official Class II certification for our NextDent Micro Filled Hybrid Crown and Bridge material in six different colors. In November, we proudly announced that the NextDent5100 became part of the Ceramill workflow as a result of a close cooperation with Amann Girrbach. For all dental applications, we ensured the 3D printed output was specifically designed for the intended use and took cost into consideration – minimizing the cost per job based on the printer price and waste savings. All this within our first year, and we are rolling into 2019 with an incredible degree of positive momentum and market support.
We take our responsibility very seriously to deliver long-term performance and safety, and we continuously review clinical events specific to defined patient populations, as well as within more representative populations of users and patients. Post-market surveillance is an integral and ongoing part of delivering a quality system and is a regulatory requirement we uphold with the highest priority.
Close cooperation with our resellers and our early adopters/new NextDent key opinion leaders has proven critical and informative. We also recently founded a users’ group for the NextDent community that represents a global pool of experienced users in the clinical, laboratory and educational environments.
For anyone interested in transforming their digital dentistry capabilities, I invite you to meet our NextDent community leaders at the IDS 2019 from March 12 to 16 in Hall 4.1, Aisle F, Nr. 0.98. We are all excited to share our unique experiences and answer your questions so you can take advantage of the NextDent 5100 in your daily workflow.
Looking forward to seeing you at IDS 2019 in Cologne!