The son of an orthodontist, Chris started working in his father’s laboratory when he was a mere 13 years old, with every intention of eventually going to dental school himself.
“I used to develop all of his parts and his appliances by hand,” Chris recalled, gaining hands-on experience fitting and seating appliances on patients as well as designing orthodontic treatment plans for patients in a variety of applications.
At Albion College, he enrolled in biomedical engineering, where he immersed himself in CAD/CAM and CAD design. “When I graduated from college, I was all set to go to dental school until I started working on a project, which was one of the first projects that used 3D printers to create surgical guides.”
That’s when the 3D printing bug hit, and he saw the potential for additive manufacturing to transform the dental industry. So he skipped dental school and instead went to work at IBUR Biosystems in Troy, Mich., developing innovative new solutions for the medical and dental sector and spearheading compliance efforts with the FDA.
In June 2016, Chris joined EnvisionTEC with an eye on making the future promise of 3D printing a reality for dental professionals.
“It’s totally changing the industry,” Chris said of 3D printing. “The dental industry has been one of the first industries to fully adapt to digital work flows, whether that’s scanning or actually 3D printing out the models.
“Now, we’re getting intricate enough and more advanced where we can directly 3D print these appliances, which is a really exciting step forward. Whether this is surgical guides, night guards, and other appliances that we’ll be having come down the pipeline here, we’re going to be really leading the frontier as far as directly printing appliances.”
Chris is enthusiastically working through all of the challenges that come with leading an industry-wide transformation. Take material development as an example. EnvisionTEC has an industry-leading materials library for dental professional—and Chris takes development of these materials seriously, especially since he has experience using them with patients.
“How long this material is going to hold its shape?” Chris asked. “Are any of the chemicals going to leach out and actually affect the patient? EnvisionTEC has gone through that testing to make sure that these appliances don’t have any chemical reaction problems on the patient.”
Chris also takes great pride in working directly with labs, orthodontists, dentists and others to hear about how 3D printers are working for them and improving machines for future use. For example, Chris continues to play a role in the development of the EnvisionTEC Vida, which launched in 2015 and is one of the most versatile 3D printers on the market for processing a wide range of materials with extreme accuracy and surface finish.
“Just like with any new emerging technology, we’re always trying to make the machines better, more predictable, more reliable, better for the end user,” Chris said. “At this point I see the future really developing new materials and new applications because if we can get this printer to provide even more solutions, it just allows us to open up our doors to more customers that are trying to use this machine to print out different materials.”
Down the road, Chris sees a future where 3D printers directly print dentures, orthodontic appliances, and more.
On the nearby horizon, he sees EnvisionTEC technologies producing indirect bonding trays. “I think that we are very close to having a perfect solution that will allow doctors, orthodontists particularly, to directly bond brackets in about half the time,” Chris said. “This is a real exciting development in the orthodontic world that’ll allow doctors to speed up their work flow processes and save them quite a bit of time and prep work as well.