Dental Innovation: How to choose a 3-D printer

Various factors come into play when buying a 3-D printer. Evaluation of considerations is necessary to best fit your patient’s and practice’s needs.

3D printers are quickly emerging in the dental field but are not new to the dental lab industry. For some dental teams, including those in academia, these technologies are already part of their practice workflows and could become the industry standard.

Many of the existing product technologies have evolved and have solely focused their 3D printers on providing dental products, meeting many, if not all, of the sought-after capabilities for dental providers, their teams, and their patients.

The decision to expand your technology can be intimidating. Many vendors exist and influencers are available to steer you in a certain direction. The most important question if you, your team and your patients are ready to embrace the benefits of 3D printing is: What am I trying to accomplish?

Would you like to print a copy?


Evaluation suggestions

Intended use/capability
  • Printers vary in ability to make diagnostic models to multi-color hard and soft tissue models used for
    implant treatment planning.
  • Biocompatible Products include surgical guides, night guards, crowns, temp veneers, dentures,
    orthodontic appliances, custom trays.
  • Quality can be difficult to assess by requesting a sample print or observing the process, but materials
    can be researched for composition and compliance with safety standards.
Functionality Questions

Resource questions:

  • Have I integrated the digital record taken into my clinical workflow?
  • Can my computers handle the software requirements of the new technology?
  • Are my team members willing to try new things and embrace technology?

Patient care questions:

  • What is/are my practice's main prosthesis and appliance fabricated?
  • What are my current lab costs per procedure for outsourcing?
  • Will incorporating digital workflows allow me to offer additional/different procedures?
  • How will this technology impact patient outcomes?

Practice setting questions:

  • Do I have the capacity to integrate a digital workflow fully or do I need to outsource any aspects? (treatment planning, designing)

  • FDA compliance
  • Closed vs. Open systems
  • Additional software may be required for design, treatment planning, etc
  • Cloud-based design options, printer software compatibility with CAD software
  • Some brands have a history with dental products only
  • Many technology types exist but common for dental use include, PolyJet, Digital light processing (DLP),
    Stereolithography (SLA), Digital Light Synthesis
  • Evolution of versions, frequency of upgrades
  • Automated systems vs. post-processing equipment/process
  • Resin and materials cartridges may not be interchangeable or have limitations to the type of material
  • Different products require different resin types
  • Size of the building platform is a consideration to the volume and type of products to be printed
  • Environmental (temperature, humidity, location) considerations to function of machine and material
  • Additional equipment required, such as washing and curing units
  • Range from $5,000- > $100,000
  • Consider additional cost if need scanner, IT update
  • Technical and Customer support subscriptions
  • Training of team
  • Material cost to determine the return on investment
  • Cost of time and space
  • Cost of training
  • Software cost and cost of updates (if not included or additional software is required)
  • Volume of use should be considered for calculating return on investment will design and fabricate?
  • Time to print product by type, resin cure time and full vs. quadrant arch
  • Curing, finishing, and polishing product time (manual vs automated)
  • Printing accuracy and capacity per material and prosthesis (Remakes, adjustment times, shades)
  • How long has this printer or material been in the market? What was the last update to the software,
    printer design, and supply of product upgrades?
  • Learning curve and training requirements
  • Time needed for update of IT to support digital workflow
  • Support and/or maintenance contract