Tag Archives: #3dPrinting

Boomers, Now Hear This: 3D Printing Is Arriving in Dentistry!

The Objet260 Dental Selection 3D Printer from Stratasys prints amazingly realistic dental models with multiple materials.
The Objet260 Dental Selection 3D Printer from Stratasys prints amazingly realistic dental models with multiple materials.

Rock concerts and sugar really did a number on the Boomers, and it seems as though Medicare anticipated our issues. What are the two things most of us need about now that Medicare doesn’t cover? You’ve got it! Hearing aids and dental implants, both costly items.

Hope is on the horizon, though, thanks to 3D printing, which has been part of both the hearing aid industry and the dental industry for a long time, and advances are happening every day in both areas. This post focuses on the most recent advances of 3d printing in the dental industry.

As tempted as I am to contemplate the future when we will be able to grow our teeth in a lab, without the need for porcelain or composite fixtures, I’ll focus on a few recent reports, things that are happening right now, or are about to happen, in dental offices.

In an in-depth report on 3D printing in dentistry from SmartTechPublishing, “3D Printing in Dentistry 2015: A Ten Year Opportunity Forecast and Analysis” we learn that 3D printing is moving more rapidly than many other industry segments toward digital production technologies. 3D printed dental components require “high value parts, with high performance standards, at high volumes.” Other industries are attempting to “bring 3D printing into this scenario for maximum value and competitive advantage, but dentistry is already achieving it.” Significant players reviewed in the report include 3D Systems, Argen, BEGO, Concept Laser, DWS, EnvisionTEC, EOS, Prodways, Solidscape, Stratasys, and others.

According to the report, both polymer and metallic applications are already in use in dentistry for:

  • surgical guides and models
  • casting and tools to aid in traditional techniques, and
  • actual dental restorative components

We’ll look at one illustration of each of these three applications, first surgical guides and models. As Stratasys says3D printers do the hard work and eliminate the bottleneck of manual modeling in dentistry. In the dental industry, modeling is probably the most basic current usage. Combined with oral scanning and CAD/CAM design, 3D printing allows dental labs to move quickly into production phase of stone models.

Stratasys alone offers four printers for dental modeling and component creation, and the most basic model, Objet30 Orthodesk, allows dental labs and offices to create surgical guides as well as models.

Casting and tools. Avi Cohen of Stratasys says that 3D printing has advanced dental techniques from “analogous, manual manipulation of materials to a systematic, digitally verifiable process.” 3D imaging software and 3D printed dental casts allow dental practitioners to engage in a verifiable process, creating products that are more consistent and reliable.

The foundation of 3D printing use in dentistry, though, is digital dentistry, “the use of dental devices and technologies that have computer-controlled or digital components. While traditional dentistry relies on devices like electric drills, stone molds and braces to restore dental structure and health, digital dentistry relies on innovative technologies such as lasers, X-Rays and oral scanners.”

Short of actually making teeth, 3D printers have been important tools in dental offices and labs for years, increasing the efficiency of traditional practices. These printers may “feature lights of lasers that polymerize a liquid or fuse a powder with the computer-guided precision required to produce small objects with intricate details.”

Dental restorative components. If you’ve ever had a crown or an implant, you know that one of the most difficult parts of the process is the wait between preparing your tooth (or space) for a crown or implant and actually getting it. It can take weeks, and in the meantime, you either have an empty space, making you feel like you never want to go out again, or a temporary (bulky and awkward) cover for your tooth.

A limited number of dental offices already make crowns while you wait with technology that has been available for about 30 years. The current process is:

  1. Take a picture with a digital camera  or 3D scanner,
  2. send the digital image through CAD/CAM software,
  3. tweak the result with the aid of the software, and
  4. send it to an in-house milling machine that makes the final crown or implant.

The milling machine uses a block of composite and sculpts the crown or implant out of it. It’s exciting for anyone who has suffered through the wait of the traditional method. The milling method is called CEREC (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics).

Only 10% of dentists use a CAD/CAM milling machine, however, even though the technology has been available for such a long time. The learning curve can be steep, and most dentists still prefer to leave the work to skilled technicians in dental labs.

The day is almost here, though, when 3D printers will not only assist in making models, they will actually print your tooth.   The advantage of 3D printing over milling is that it can better manufacture a tooth with all its intricate, individual details. The disadvantage of 3D printing in dentistry has been that it takes more time than milling.

Now, though, researchers are racing to come up with faster 3D printing methods in dentistry. Joseph DeSimone, the CEO of the 3D printing company Carbon3D and a professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, announced at the TED Conference in Vancouver in March, 2015, that a breakthrough technology allows teeth to be printed in 6.5 minutes.

So Boomers: if Medicare won’t cover your tooth replacement, watch for that 6.5 minute tooth to come to a dental office near you.  Take half an hour to get that tooth replacement, and go out to your next night on the town looking like an eighteen year old! But hold on the sugar anyway until they’re further along on 3D printed heart replacements. 🙂

In the meantime, follow us on Twitter (@3dprintingisfun) and like us on Facebook. Subscribe to this blog, or visit us at shop3duniverse.com.

Does 3D Printing Hold Promise for Detection and Treatment of Pancreatic Cancer?

G-quadruplex: Univ. of Alabama 3D Printing Lab created a groundbreaking DNA sequence that may help in the fight against cancer.
G-quadruplex DNA Sequence: Univ. of Alabama 3D Printing Lab created a groundbreaking DNA sequence that may help in the fight against pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic Cancer: The Facts

Pancreatic cancer has been on my mind a lot recently, so I wanted to get the latest information and find out what hope there might be for improving the prognosis for this deadly disease. This post focuses on what 3D printing, specifically, offers.

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth highest cause of cancer deaths, most often affecting people over the age of 65. It is one of the few cancers that is on the increase, and by 2020, it is expected to be the second highest cause of cancer deaths. It is difficult to detect and treat, and often it isn’t detected until it is too late to treat.

Pancreatic cancer is very aggressive. Five years ago, people with Stage IV pancreatic cancer lived a median 6 months. Thanks to breakthrough research, that time frame is extended to 11 months. For all stages, the five year survival rate is an average 5%, for Stage I, only 20%, and for Stage IV, 1%.

With a dismal prognosis like this, it is certainly one of the areas of cancer research that begs for discoveries and solutions.

3D Printing and Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Advances

3D print models. Models help researchers understand cancers better, allowing more targeted and effective treatment.

Dr. Rosalie Sears, Ph.D., a professor of molecular and medical genetics at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, prints models of cancer tumors, exact replicas of patients’ cancerous growths. These models allow testing in real time of how a patient’s tumor will respond to particular treatments. 

Another university, the University of Alabama, announced in February, 2014, the very first 3D printed model of a G-quadruplex DNA sequence, with its molecular structure.

G-quadruplex molecules are nucleic acid sequences and have been described as “a structure in search of a function.” Research has shown that “targeting G-quadruplex sequences with particular compounds can inhibit or stabilize tumors leading to pancreatic cancer.”

The 3D printed live model produced by the University of Alabama has proved “invaluable,” according to Dr. Stephen Ohnmacht of University College in London, a British collaborator in the project. Dr. Vincent Scalfani from the University of Alabama says, “The G-quadruplex 3D model allows us to observe all the symmetry, edges and angles inside of the molecular structure.”

As researchers are able to hold the intricate structure of the DNA in their hands, they are better able to understand it and plan how to target treatment.

3D Bioprinting. One of the most exciting developments in 3D printing that has potential for treating pancreatic and other cancers is Organovo and Autodesk’s alliance to develop “the sophisticated molecular design and simulation software required for engineering living systems.

Organovo’s 3D Bioprinter applies the concept of additive manufacturing to cell biology to convert the cells of a clinical tumor specimen into an accurate model of human tissue. The model will be used to test a promising pancreatic and breast cancer drug, greatly accelerating the test stage.

3D printed device to push chemotherapy drugs directly to tumor. Pancreatic cancer is typically very difficult to diagnose, and often by the time there’s a diagnosis, the tumors are intertwined with major organs and blood vessels.

A group at UNC-Chapel Hill has created “a device that can be customized for each patient via 3-D printing, potentially right in the operating room. It uses electrical fields to push chemotherapy drugs directly to tumors and has the potential to dramatically increase the number of patients eligible for life-saving surgery.”

The technique has been tested successfully on animals, and human testing will begin next year. A paper in the research journal, Science Translational Medicine (February 2015), describes the project.

Tissue engineering and organ regeneration. Possibilities for tissue engineering and organ regeneration are also part of the 3D printing picture of the future.

3D Printing and Pancreatic Cancer Detection Advances

The real solution for difficult, aggressive cancers like pancreatic and lung, however, lies in early detection when there is a possibility for treatment.

Jorge Soto, part of a team of scientists and technologists from Chile, Panama, Mexico, Israel and Greece, reports that this group believes  they have found a reliable and accurate way of detecting several types of cancer at the very early stages through a blood sample.

“The test is performed by detecting a set of very small molecules that circulate freely in our blood called microRNAs…This is a single non-invasive, accurate and affordable test that has the potential to dramatically change how cancer procedures and diagnostics have been done. Since we’re looking for the microRNA patterns in your blood at any given time, you don’t need to know which cancer you’re looking for. You don’t need to have any symptoms. You only need one milliliter of blood and a relatively simple array of tools.”

As Soto says in his Ted Talk, “This entire platform is a working prototype. It uses state-of-the-art molecular biology, a low-cost, 3D-printed device, and data science to try to tackle one of humanity’s toughest challenges.” The design of the 3D printed device is open-source to encourage community input and accelerate advances.

Imagine how many lives can be saved with a simple, effective blood test that allows early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer!

I’m curious, since the open source 3D printed device is already out, and the method is in place to test for several cancers, including pancreatic, so far…why hasn’t this low-cost equipment become part of every doctor’s office or at least every lab and testing become commonplace whenever blood work is done?

Has anyone else seen Jorge Soto’s TedTalk? Have you ever known anyone who might have benefited from earlier testing?

Follow us on Twitter (@3dprintingisfun) and like us on Facebook. Subscribe to this blog, or visit us at shop3duniverse.com.