The state of dental 3D printers in 2018 looks strong and profitable. SmarTech Publishing, in its recent market research study titled, “3D Printing in Dentistry 2018, An Opportunity Analysis and Ten-Year Forecast,” predicts that the dental 3D printing market opportunity will reach $9.5 billion by 2027.
SprintRay, makers of the MoonRay 3D printer, intend to capture a healthy slice of this burgeoning dentist marketplace, but also in Hollywood special effects, design and prototyping, to name just a couple of industries using their printers.
TJ McCue visits SprintRay 3D Printer Company in California.
MoonRay is a high-resolution wireless desktop 3D printer using Digital Light Projector (DLP) technology. This DLP method uses liquid, light-sensitive resin versus the more common filament material 3D printer that consumers generally see today. DLP methods often produce a more finished result. The MoonRay 3D printer light projector shines light into the resin tank, each layer cured by the projector light, to a 75-100 micron precision.
Disclosure: SprintRay loaned me a printer for another review project and as I researched the bigger trends in 3D dentistry I decided to do a post here on Forbes.
Future of Digital Dentistry
2017 may have been the tipping point for dental 3D printing, according to SprintRay’s marketing manager, Marcus Galindo. He cites author Malcolm Gladwell’s concept for when all the little things add up to make a big difference and start a shift. He explained how dentists are facing a customer experience trend, like many businesses, where patients expect a higher level of care. The “online review” mentality will have its impact in dentistry as it has in books, cafes, restaurants and most other industries. Patients will refer others to the dentist who makes the entire dental experience who reduce the time it takes to do a task, with less physical or emotional stress.
For example, dentists do many drilling procedures free hand, without any special fixture to hold the drill. Mostly, because creating what is known as a surgical guide, in essence a jig or holding fixture, was too time-consuming (and expensive) to accurately create and use. 3D printing is dramatically changing that. In the past, a dentist that wanted to use a surgical guide would create it with the help of a dental lab (and many still do and will do it for the foreseeable future). [ CLICK Continue button to read Page 2 ]
Today, you can model and 3D print a guide in about 45 minutes. Guided surgery is more accurate, safer, faster, and arguably, more profitable because of the time a dentist can save compared to freehand drilling. But the most important thing, from Mr. Galindo’s perspective as both a marketing guy and a dental patient, is these “digital dentists” are giving their patients better care. SprintRay posted a terrific case study on how one dentist, Dr. Baron Grutter, is frequently a first mover to acquire and test new innovations in his move toward digital dentistry.
Where are Dental 3D Printers Used?
In the SmarTech infographic, they show that 88 percent of dental 3D printers are used in dental labs, but only 12 percent in dentist offices. In less than 10 years, in 2027, those numbers will shift significantly with 54 percent of dental printers being used in dental offices and only 46 percent in dental labs. Digital dental milling systems (the dominant method for preparing crowns and so forth) will be surpassed by dental 3D printers by 2027, in terms of unit sales.
You can read more from SmarTech about 3D printing in dentistry here and check out the informative State of Dental 3D Printing 2018 infographic. This news release gives a good overview, too. In addition to the overall 3D dental industry, they estimate that by 2024 outsourced additive manufacturing of metal dental implant systems alone will grow to exceed $1B in opportunity.
With approximately 200,000 dentists in the USA, some experts estimate there are somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 dentists practicing what is known as “digital dentistry.” While I would consider this to mean intraoral 3D scanners and more advanced tech, there’s still a large portion of dentists who are still using film for x-rays. According to The Wealthy Dentist, Jim Du Molin, in a recent dentist survey, 66 percent said they use digital x-rays (34 percent reported that they still use traditional film).
If only five to ten percent of the dental market is making a move toward a full digital dental office, then SprintRay is poised for a bright future as dental 3D printers catch the attention of more dentists.