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Dental Lab Uses 3D Printer for Manufacturing Flexibility

Bay View Dental Laboratory in Chesapeake, Virginia, is a family business, and although it’s a mid-to-large lab, with 50 employees, after 75 years in business, it still maintains an intimate family feel.

Today, a group of second- and third-generation of Shafers are carrying the torch into the future.

The EnvisionTEC Vida 3D printer for dental professionals offers improved resolution to 73 μm, a variety of dental-specific material options and a slightly larger work space.

The EnvisionTEC Vida 3D printer for dental professionals offers improved resolution to 73 μm, a variety of dental-specific material options and a slightly larger work space.

Some time ago, Matt Shafer said the company realized 3D printing would be a necessary part of a competitive future for their dental lab, which serves dental customers nationwide.

“We have a lot of different technologies,” Matt explained, “but we had been hesitant to pull the trigger on a 3D printer. There were people who told us it was a waste of money, but we went forth.”

In the end, he’s glad they did. The venture into 3D printing, Matt said, has gone “better than we had expected.”

The company researched a variety of 3D printers before settling on its EnvisionTEC Vida as its primary 3D printer for precision production work. The machine offers great flexibility for printing everything from castable patterns for highly accurate crowns, full contours, inlays and onlays to surgical guides and bite splints to full models. The Vida, he said, also offers simple cleanup and post processing.

Initially, Bay View tried a competing 3D printer. “We were not happy with the post-processing,” Matt said. “We used it for two weeks and said, ‘That’s not going to happen.’”

By comparison, he said, the EnvisionTEC “is just an easier process for us.”

Click the photograph to see the high quality of our E-Guard material printed on an EnvisionTEC 3D printer for dental applications.

Click the photograph to see the high quality of our E-Guard material printed on an EnvisionTEC 3D printer for dental applications.

The Vida was installed at Bay View in August 2016 and Matt said the process went very smoothly. “I am a ceramist, but I spearheaded the 3D printer into our workflow,” Matt said.

Bay View is using its Vida to print in several materials:

  • E-Dentstone Peach, for highly accurate dental model manufacturing. With a similar look and feel to gympsum die stones used in labs, it can be trimmed and marked and it’s tough enough to have a technician remove and replace the die and check occlusion.
  • Press E-Cast M, for direct investment casting of copings and crowns.
  • E-Guard, a biocompatible transparent material for the production of bite splints, night guards and surgical guides.

The accuracy and material flexibility offered by the Vida has allowed the company to expand its business in offering surgical guides, too. “It’s a growing business,” Matt said.

Interestingly, Bay View also owns another 3D printer, a cheap model from Formlabs, which sits right next to the Vida in the lab.

“It is not to the standard quality of the Vida,” Matt said, calling it “adequate” for jobs requiring less accuracy where time isn’t crucial. “I thought it would be faster than it was, that it is. I’m also not thrilled with the material options that we have with it.”

But for Bay View, the Vida is the quality standard in the lab, offering incredible accuracy, surface finish that requires little to no post-processing and flexibility that cannot be matched in terms of the material library and potential uses.

“The overall accuracy on the Vida is better,” Matt said.