“An Exclusive Interview with Chuck Stapleton: Discussing 3D Systems’ Strategy for Dental 3D Printing”


In a recent discussion, Chuck Stapleton, the Vice President and General Manager for Dental at 3D Systems, delineated the firm’s strategy for advancing 3D printing to mainstream use for dental production. The dialogue underscored the significance of working with enterprises ranging from large dental producers like Glidewell to maintaining relationships with various-sized labs that constitute a substantial market portion.

Stapleton highlighted their collaboration with the leading provider of clear aligners, Align Technology, acknowledging the pandemic-induced challenges yet emphasizing a positive market outlook. He stated, “They’re seeing growth currently.” Furthermore, he mentioned the optimistic market forecasts indicating a return to a steady growth trend.

Delving into specifics, Stapleton shed light on 3D Systems’ extensive portfolio tailored for dentistry. He mentioned applications ranging from orthodontics to prosthetics, showcasing their versatility in creating dental models, crowns, dentures, nightguards, surgical guides, and more. Particularly, he elucidated how 3D Systems technology facilitates precise bracket placements in orthodontics and enables production of the final prosthetic for the patient directly from 3D printing.

Moreover, he pointed out their capability to integrate with legacy workflows and provide 3D printing solutions with metal for crowns and partial dentures, reflecting a comprehensive approach to meeting the diverse needs of the dental sector.

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Accelerated Adoption of 3D Printing Predicted in Dental Sector: A Glimpse into 3D Systems’ Strategy

Stapleton shared insights into the evolving trajectory of additive technology in the dental sector. Reflecting on his experiences, he acknowledged the initial apprehension surrounding 3D printing technology in dental labs a decade ago. However, he highlighted a paradigm shift, “It’s going to accelerate now that 3D printing is accepted in the dental space. The majority of dental  labs now have 3D printers.”

A significant driver behind this accelerated adoption is the aging workforce in dental labs, with the average age of a dental technician inching up to 56 this year. The diminishing manual labor force is prompting a greater reliance on digital technology to fill the gap, foreseen by Stapleton as a catalyst for broader acceptance and integration of 3D printing solutions.

Stapleton believes that product applications will undergo significant developments in the permanent crown and denture spaces, predicting revolutionary changes especially in denture applications in the short term. He also suggested a slow branching out into other prosthetic areas and eventually to the implant space, though this would be on a longer timeline.

Durable 3D Printed Crowns and Technological Excellence

Many wonder about the durability of dental applications enabled by 3D printing. According to Chuck Stapleton, when done right, 3D printed crowns can last as long as traditional crowns, for more than 20 years. “It’s a function of the 3D printing materials,” highlights Stapleton, pointing out the need for the right mechanical properties to produce long-lasting restorations.

Stapleton confirmed the expanding range of dental applications for 3D printing, now including the creation of crowns and dentures. Instead of the traditional hands-on approach, he discussed how going digital results in a more accurate product, enhancing patient comfort while avoiding the sacrifices in design that manual methods require.

A key development, the acquisition of NextDent by 3D Systems, was noted as a significant milestone. This strategic acquisition expanded their materials portfolio, pushing the company deeper into the dental sector with more resources. It indicates 3D Systems’ dedication to promoting innovation and delivering accurate, high-quality dental solutions through additive manufacturing.

Stapleton also discussed the notable incorporation of Figure 4 technology into the dental workflow. He described how this integration puts 3D Systems in a unique position in the market by combining advanced printing technology with a solid materials portfolio. He mentioned that it’s straightforward to operate the printer—”You pour your material into the tray, it prints, and you know it’s going to work.”

Compared to competitors, this integration gives 3D Systems a distinct advantage as he stressed the benefits of having both the material and hardware optimized within the same company. He identified a common industry problem—companies often struggle with third-party resins and printers, hoping they will work together. However, the simultaneous knowledge and experience as a hardware developer add additional value to resin integration within other 3D Printers. This makes the reliability of NextDent resins on other validated hardware nearly identical to the complete NextDent ecosystem, Stapleton explained. This integrated approach does more than just remove uncertainty—it also provides global support from 3D Systems if there are any issues, preventing the typical blame game over whether the material or the printer is the problem.

Addressing the current limitations of 3D printing in the dental sector, Stapleton identified market acceptance as a notable hurdle. Despite the proven efficacy among early adopters, persuading the broader market about the reliability of 3D printed dental solutions remains a challenge. He also mentioned technology constraints with certain types of technologies like DLP (Digital Light Processing) which is confined to single material printing. However, he was optimistic about overcoming such limitations, particularly highlighting 3D Systems’ jetting technology as a solution to some of these challenges.

3D Systems Outlines Strategy Amid Soaring Competition in Dental 3D Printing Market

In light of the escalating competition in the dental 3D printing market, 3D Systems has outlined a strategy to sustain a competitive edge. Stapleton articulates a multi-pronged approach. He underscores a “relentless focus on engineering disruptive materials,” exploring fresh business models and partnerships, and tapping into “previously underutilized technologies such as jetting” to unveil new applications.

3D Systems is dedicated to addressing expanding sustainability concerns by ensuring that its products and processes are environmentally friendly. According to Stapleton, “All our biomedical materials are rigorously tested to confirm they’re not poisonous to the patient and, consequently, not damaging to the environment.” The company additionally provides refurbishment programs aimed at extending the shelf-life of their printers.

Referencing a report from Markets & Markets, Stapleton forecasts a surge in the Digital Dental segment to an expected $12.2 billion by 2028, indicating an annual growth rate of 10.9%. Furthermore, the Total Addressable Market (TAM) for 3D printing in the dental sector is anticipated to reach $1.7 billion in 2023. This projected financial trajectory highlights both the substantial growth possibility and the large market share that 3D Systems is competing to gain.

Undoubtedly, there are both hurdles and prospects to look forward to in the dental industry over the coming five years. The strict Medical Device Regulation (MDR) standards in the European Union present a significant struggle, slowing the entry of products into the market. As Stapleton points out, “the MDR standards in the EU are considerably decelerating the speed of introducing products to the market.”

On the flip side, the increasing acceptance of using 3D printing for the final delivery of prosthetics to patients opens a broad spectrum of opportunities. This emerging trend positions 3D Systems favourably to capitalise on its “comprehensive solution portfolio of technology and materials” in researching and developing novel dental applications. However, only a few companies have a distinct positioning in this arena.

Looking ahead, Stapleton is optimistic about the transformative impact of 3D printing on dental care delivery. He envisions a future where dental product production will decentralize, moving closer to the patient, which will shorten wait times and enhance service responsiveness. This shift is expected to benefit underdeveloped regions, opening new avenues for dental care access. Moreover, the superior accuracy of 3D printing technology when crafting dental prosthetics compared to traditional analog methods will translate to a better fit for patients and potentially fewer office visits, enhancing the overall patient experience.

Original source


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