Surgical Implant 3D

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Surgical Implant 3D delivers fast and cost-effective digital dentistry with Stratasys PolyJet 3D printing

“It used to take three weeks to receive our 3D printed SLA models. Now it takes just forty-eight hours to manufacture them with PolyJet technology, meaning it is ten times quicker for us to create surgical guides. This has been a game-changer for our customer service, enabling us to provide our patients with an accurate surgical guide faster than ever before,” Nicolas Jager, founding partner, Surgical Implant 3D.

Based in Metz, in the North East of France, Surgical Implant 3D has always aspired to use the latest technologies and devices to manufacture dental solutions for its patients. This includes using surgical guides for more precise placement of implants.

           A 3D printed surgical guide mounted on a replica of a patient’s jaw

Guides were usually outsourced from any one of a limited number of specialist manufacturing companies. However, according to Nicolas Jager, one of the founding partners of Surgical Implant 3D, the first 3D printing technology used in the dental implantology arena – stereolithography (SLA) – presented problems.

He explained: “The SLA parts we outsourced offered a significantly inferior level of resolution than the optical scanner we used to deliver a detailed scan of the patient’s mouth. At the time, the SLA parts we received had a resolution of 150 micron layers, while the optical scanner provided a virtual 3D moulding of the mouth to an accuracy of five micron layers. As a result, the surgical guides did not always fit precisely in the patient’s mouth, and, in the worst-case scenarios, their instability during surgery made drilling work less accurate.”
These inadequacies were further compounded by long lead times of up to three weeks.

“The products were not perfect due to the imprecision of the stereolithographic printing process, which necessitated meticulous adjustments by hand. This not only caused long delays to the production time, it also greatly increasing the cost to the patient.”

On the lookout for an alternative 3D printing solution, Jager began talks with engineers from Swissmeda, the company behind SMOP, a CAD-based virtual planning software that helps improve the creation of bespoke surgical guides for patients. Using SMOP, the jaw is recreated in 3D and dental implants can be virtually positioned with exceptional precision.

3D CAD model of surgical guide used to position implants on the patient’s jaw bone

Impressed with the new benefits offered by SMOP, Surgical Implant 3D began ordering exclusively its surgical guides from providers utilising the software in conjunction with Stratasys PolyJet 3D printing technology, which according to the company, represented a turnkey transformation in processes at its practice.

Jager continues: “The resolution of PolyJet is outstanding and compatible with the optical scanner and 3D printing CAD software. We can transfer data onto SMOP and simulate the surgery on screen. We align the 3D CAD model of the surgical guide on the jaw and position the implants on the bone; it’s effectively like we can practice operating on our patients before they undergo the actual surgery. Having the chance to practice the procedure beforehand not only enables us to perfect the eventual procedure, but also ensures that we do so in much less time, which, of course, is more good news for patients.”

Production time cut from three weeks to forty-eight hours

Thanks to outsourcing PolyJet-printed surgical guides, the implant surgery procedure itself became greatly improved. According to Jager, surgical prototypes were being produced with higher precision and fitted the patients perfectly, demonstrating the improved reliability and efficiency of the technology. Jager was also satisfied by the reduction in production time:
“It used to take three weeks to receive our 3D printed SLA models. Now it takes just forty-eight hours to manufacture them with PolyJet technology, meaning it is ten times quicker for us to create surgical guides. This has been a game-changer for our customer service, enabling us to provide our patients with an accurate surgical guide faster than ever before,”

3D printed surgical guide produced in VeroClear material using Objet Eden260VS Dental Advantage 3D printer

Surgical Implant 3D was so pleased with the service that in January 2016 it decided to invest in its own Stratasys Objet Eden260VS Dental Advantage 3D Printer from Stratasys Platinum Reseller, CADvision. Jager explained: “PolyJet is unquestionably the best technology to use with SMOP software. Since bringing production in-house, we have far greater control and Swissmeda has also now granted us exclusive rights to use the software in France, Belgium and Luxembourg.”

Having enjoyed success as a dental implant surgery, the company soon realised the wider business potential of its in-house 3D printing capacity, by opening a 3D printing dental service focused on manufacturing implantology guides for other dental surgeries.

Jager concluded: “3D printing has given us the power to create an entire new business model. Since bringing PolyJet technology in-house, we have been able to reduce our costs significantly, which means we can offer other dental surgeries a far more competitive price. We can now pass the savings onto our customers by charging €238 for six implants instead of €600-700 using the previous manufacturing process. We are targeting between 200 and 400 new clients and see a business opportunity of €1 million – €1.2 million turnover. So investing in this technology has been the best move we ever made.”