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Last updated: October 05, 2021
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Not so long-ago 3D printing was considered science fiction. In recent years though, 3D printing has made a huge impact on the manufacturing industry. That includes the medical and dental industries.
With easy availability and more affordable operating costs, it’s not uncommon to find one or even two dental 3D printers in your dentist’s practice. But, with so many options on the market, how will you know which option is the best dental 3D printer? Fortunately, we’ve done the leg work for you! We’ve reviewed a few of the most popular dental 3D printers currently on the market. We’ve also included a handy buyer’s guide to emphasize the important features to consider when you’re shortlisting options!
If you’re familiar with the ANYCUBIC Photon from 2018, then you’ll enjoy this printer since it’s the upgraded version. One of the issues with the original model was the slight wobble with the Z-axis. This new, upgraded model has doubled up on the linear rails on either side of the lead screw. This means there’s more support as the build volume increases during print. No internet connection is required as printing is completely offline. Connectivity has to be via a USB stick. (Bear this in mind if you’re hoping for a different or additional option.)
The original Photon was a huge success in the 3D printing field. The Photon S has taken this success formula a step further. The UI upgrade made the printer easier to handle and added electronic upgrades translated to better quality prints. Additionally, a file browser gives you a series of thumbnail previews of the sliced files. It also refreshes between pages with surprising fluidity. It’s as simple as tapping the file you’d like to print.
What stands out?
The original Photon needed a stylus to use the uncomfortable touchscreen. We’re glad to see this model has completely removed that initial setback with a larger screen. A clear menu, legible buttons, and icons make it much simpler to use. You’ll, however, need to be on the printer's level to get the perfect viewing angle. Printer placement is key in this regard.
What cons did we manage to find?
We were somewhat disappointed with the bed leveling that ended up being unnecessarily fussy. Its design is slightly flimsy, and given it's an upgrade, we were hoping it would be slightly sturdier.
Most dental practices will be looking for 3D printers with large build volumes. The Mono X doesn’t disappoint in that regard! It also features a 4K screen, monochrome display, and a metal exterior. A streamlined UI gives this printer the advantage of producing top-quality prints with minimal effort.
Since monochrome LCD screens are the new go-to solution in 3D printers, we’re glad to see this upgrade has included it! A new and improved LCD screen leads to less energy usage and amazingly faster curing times. In fact, users have reported curing times being reduced from 6 seconds to an estimated 2 seconds per layer. This is good news for dental practices since it means higher volumes in shorter times. Monochrome screens also last an average of 4 times longer than their older, slower non-mono counterparts. This nifty printer is often hailed as the best wax 3D printer for dental models.
Why are we impressed?
Aside from the 4K resolution, the LCD screen has a remarkable 3840 x 2400 pixels, which are conveniently spread over a 192 x 125mm area. The improved XY-Pixel features a size of 50 microns, putting it in the same range as some larger competitor models.
What negatives must you be aware of?
In our opinion, the photon workshop slicer isn’t the greatest. With the other improvements and upgrades made to the new ANYCUBIC range, this should have been one of them!
If you’re looking for a faster, more hands-on 3D dental printer, this model is the ideal option. A monochrome LCD screen supercharges the print speed, increasing cure times to as low as 2 seconds. With the hardware upgrades and a slight design change, this model is an improved version of its predecessor. The upgrade to a linear rail Z-axis motion makes the printer sturdier and results in a more precise print.
The Photon Mono is another printer in the line of the ANYCUBIC relaunches, and it’s by far the cheapest of the range. With its new LCD tech screen, the UV light doesn’t have to be on for too long. Essentially, this shortens the cure and print times. How does this happen? The LCD tech serves as a mask between each layer and sits between the printer’s light source and a thin layer of resin in the vat. This tech feature sets this printer above most other printers in this category!
Why is it special?
Despite being the junior version of ANYCUBIC’s new range, we were significantly impressed with Mono's print quality. Getting the perfect print is actually simple and hassle-free compared to some other units we've encountered. It also creates print layers without doing too much damage to your printer plate.
What are the flaws?
We found the build volume on this unit quite restricting. Additionally, the touchscreen is smaller than we expected, giving you a very limited viewing angle. We expected a larger screen to show off the new LCD tech!
The ANYCUBIC Photon Mono SE is ideal for fast and accurate printing. One of its top features is the 6” LCD screen as its light source. This means it has an XY resolution of 51 microns and a Z-axis of 10 microns, giving your printed product a finer, more detailed finish. An advantage to the screen’s monochrome display is the prolonged lifespan, offering thousands of additional hours of use.
Unlike the ANYCUBIC models before it, the Photon Mono SE features an upward-opening door rather than a removable top casing. The new metal frame and CNC aluminum parts provide additional rigidity. Its new dual linear rails system on the Z-axis improves stability during motion, which greatly reduces the risk of layers shifting around during the printing process.
Why are we impressed?
We like Mono's new UV cooling system, which allows for a sturdier printing performance. This cooling feature should also go a long way toward improving the printer's lifespan. The proprietary software that comes with the printer is also a huge plus. It offers features like hollowing, model cutting, and punch-holes. It also supports 8X anti-aliasing, making it a perfect option for dental applications.
What negatives must you be aware of?
One of the drawbacks of this unit is the price. It comes in at a slightly higher price than other models in its range. While this might not be a problem for larger dental practices, it could present a problem for smaller clinics. The Photon software is also not as remarkable as that of some of the other printers.
If you’re looking for a dental 3D printer to give you high-efficiency prints at a low cost, the Cameo AC-3 3D printer is the perfect option. Additionally, it’s designed specifically for dentistry applications that require high resolution. Its low cost and high efficiency make it possible to print as many as 8 orthodontic models in only 1 hour.
This printer was specifically designed for the production of dental models. With a layer resolution of 0.01 – 0.2mm, you’re guaranteed quality prints every time. It’s easy to use, cost-effective, and even easier to maintain. The compatible material is 405nm resin used for dental molds.
What do we love it for?
With this printer, we like the EXO/CAD design software. Additionally, the printing materials are fully compatible with all 405nm LCD printing supplies. We can see why this printer is often referred to as the best 3D printer for dental models.
What were we disappointed with?
Unlike other 3D printers in the dentistry category, this printer only has a printing speed of 18mm/h. With other printers having speeds of 50mm/h and even 80mm/h, this speed is considerably low. For a printer that’s designed for dentistry, it might make sense to have faster printing speeds to accommodate higher volumes needs.
The Ultimaker S5 3D printer is the newest printing giant from the Ultimaker range. It features an innovative print core system that makes it easy to swap hot ends. Unlike other 3D printers in this category, the Ultimaker doesn’t only connect with a USB drive. It also works with Wi-Fi and Ethernet.
This large format printer is the ideal solution for multi-material prints. It’s perfect for the requirements of various dental applications. Some of the materials that can be used to make dental applications include PVA, Nylon, PC, CPE, Tough PLA, and Breakaway. The heated bed easily smooths out prints which allow for quality ABS printing.
What are our favorite features?
We liked the 500W feature on this printer. It allows for high volume, high-quality prints at the fastest speeds. It’s the perfect solution to give dental practices a competitive edge. Just ensure that the correct adhesive is used to secure the chosen materials to the printer surface.
What could be better?
We were a little disappointed that this printer struggles to print third-party materials. Materials don't remain on the printer surface without adhesive. Wi-Fi connectivity can be a problem, so wherever possible, try and use the USB option.
Things to Consider
Buying your first 3D dental printer might not be as easy as you think. While they might look very similar and essentially serve the same function, they can be very different. We’ve compiled an informative buyer’s guide that will identify what a dental 3D printer is and why your practice needs one. We’ll also cover the general features to consider when you’re comparing the units on your shortlist. Generally, the most common features to consider include printing technology, printer power, and layer resolution. Considering these features will ensure you get the right printer to give your practice the competitive edge!
What Are Dental 3D Printers?
Dental 3D printers, like other 3D printers, use computer-aided design (CAD) and a variety of materials to create 3D objects. 3D printing uses layering methods to create an object. This means the printer will pile the chosen material onto a surface, in a pre-determined design, in layers until the item is complete. The list of materials that can be used in 3D printers is growing exponentially. The most common include dental model resin, metal, plastic, and polymers specific to dental applications.
Not all 3D dental printers can print the same applications. Different models make use of different materials to print certain applications.
While some lower-end units can only print basic diagnostic models, more advanced printers can construct highly advanced orthodontic applications. Depending on the type of printer used, some of the applications that can be printed include:
Retainers & braces
Trusted SourceDental Braces and Retainers: Types, Care, What to ExpectBraces are dental tools that help correct problems with your teeth, like crowding, crooked teeth, or teeth that are out of alignment. Many people get braces when they’re teenagers, but adults get them too. As you wear them, braces slowly straighten and align your teeth so you have a normal bite. Some people get braces to adjust their smile.
Crown and bridge models
Splints & occlusal guards
Trusted SourceTypes of Mouth Guards to Protect Your TeethMouth guards are coverings worn over teeth, and often used to protect teeth from injury from teeth grinding and during sports.
Not all dental 3D printers are the same. Different features will determine the types and quality of applications that can be manufactured. It’s important to consider the usual functioning features as well as the aspects that differentiate low and high-end models. We’ve compiled a few of the more common features you should consider when you’re shortlisting options!
When it comes to printing technology, you want a printer with the capability of giving you a competitive edge. Essentially, there are different types of processes that define how the chosen materials make the layers of the items you’ll be printing. Most notably, five of the 3D printers on our list make use of SLA technology, and one uses FFF. Consider the difference between the two:
Stereolithography (SLA) is the oldest and most popular form of 3D printing for dentistry applications.
Essentially, SLA works when a thin increment of photosensitive liquid material is cured with UV light until a complete layer is formed.
The platform then moves vertically away from the item and makes room for the next layer. Layers adhere to each other because the polymer has self-adhesive properties. So, in short, these types of printers form the product in layers. The Cameo AC-3 3D Printer, as well as the ANYCUBIC Photon Mono SE, are just two examples of this type of technology.
Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF)
Fused filament fabrication (FFF) is also commonly referred to as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). In short, it’s a process that uses a continuous filament of thermoplastic material
Trusted SourceThermoplastics Material - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics
to create the item you’re printing. Thermoplastic material, in the form of strings, is pushed through a nozzle.
The nozzle heats the material to its melting point and deposits the softer, melted material onto the printer surface. The nozzle is pre-programmed and placed layer upon layer until the item is formed.
This option is often perfect for dentistry applications and prosthetics because machines that use FDM can use several materials simultaneously. The Ultimaker S5 3D Printer is the most popular 3D dental printer with FDM technology.
Y-axis resolution refers to the smallest horizontal plane made by a printer head on each layer. Ideally, a smaller value equals a higher resolution, which in turn provides greater detail in print. It’s important to note that Y-axis resolution is measured via microscopic imaging and might not always be listed on product specification lists. If Y-axis resolution isn’t listed, always check for a lower layer resolution in general. A good 3D printer needs to produce quality prints in all three dimensions. All the printers listed in our review list have a low-layer resolution, making them suitable options for your dentistry practice.
Layer resolution refers to the layer thickness, or layer height is the minimum thickness that the printer produces in one pass.
Ideally, you want a printer that produces a smaller layer thickness because that will give you a smoother printed surface.
A smoother printed surface produces a better-quality product. On average, most dental 3D printers run between 10 – 300 microns per layer. This equates to about 0.1 – 0.4mm. While the resolution is adjustable on some printers, a lower resolution will always give you a smoother, higher-quality product. On our review list, the Cameo AC-3 3D Printer is within the 0.1 – 0.4 mm range. The ANYCUBIC Photon Mono SE printer has a layer height of 0.01 – 0.15mm.
How fast a 3D printer prints will determine how quickly the job gets done. Since dental 3D printers are used to print retainers, dentures, and aligner models, it’s imperative to have a machine that can handle the volume.
Before you settle on a printer, consider how many molds and models you might need to print on an average month. Remember that investing in a 3D printer should increase productivity and streamline your current workflow.
Essentially, the power output of your 3D dental printer will determine how hot the heated bed can get. This, in turn, will influence the quality and speed at which a product can be printed.
The higher the wattage of your 3D dental printer, the better. Especially if you’re printing high volumes, the Ultimaker S5 3D Printer has an impressive 500 watts. Other printers, such as the ANYCUBIC Photon Mono X, works with 120 watts. The ANYCUBIC Photon Mono has a much lower wattage of 45. It’s important to determine how much you need to print on an average day and decide if you want a stronger printer.
When you consider the printing volume, establish the size of the items you’ll be printing. Ensure that the printer can print the biggest item. Don’t assume that all 3D printers can print all-sized items.
Fortunately, dental 3D printers are used for relatively small items. The smaller printers on our review list will be able to print all applications used in dentistry.
The smaller options include the ANYCUBIC Photon S, which has a printing volume of 11 x 6,5 x 16cm, as well as the ANYCUBIC Photon Mono, with a printing volume of 13 x 8 x 16cm. If you’re looking for a bigger printing volume, consider the Ultimaker S5 3D Printer with a printing volume of 33 x 24 x 30cm.
Most 3D dental printers are connected to your computer via USB. The printer will come with a USB cable. A tip to ensure there are no communication errors between your computer system and the printer is to test the cable before starting a printing job.
3D dental printers can work continuously for days. However, there are a few steps to follow to ensure that your printer is ready for a huge printing job. Ensure that the print surface is perfectly clean and dust-free. Make sure the bed leveling is correct to ensure first layer adhesion to the print bed. Cheaper printers can take between 6 and 7 hours to print a model. More expensive models can do the printing in 20 minutes.
Keeping your 3D printer clean is essential to producing the perfect job. It also increases the lifespan of your printer. In general, most manufacturers recommend wiping every few prints with isopropyl. Doing this ensures maximum adhesion. The print surface needs to be cleaned every few months. Sanding the surface and giving it a good clean with acetone will, in most instances, restore the print surface. If your print surface can no longer be reinvigorated, it might be time to buy a new PEI sheet. Over time the nozzle could become blocked. It’s advisable to flush the nozzle every 200 – 400 printing hours. Ensure you keep your printer dust-free. Dust is very damaging to printers, so keep the 3D printer covered when not in use.
We trust that our extensive review of the 6 top dental 3D printers has given you some much-needed insight into the variety of options available. Still on the fence about which option to consider? Let’s revisit our favorite three.
Rated as our editor’s choice, the ANYCUBIC Photon S received a rating of 9.5 because its larger screen makes for easy use and better legibility. It also impressed us because its additional support makes for better build volume during print. It’s the perfect option to consider when you’re looking for superior prints!
Nominated as our premium pick, the ANYCUBIC Photon Mono X is rated at 9.3 and a firm favorite because it reduces curing time from an average of 6 seconds to an incredible 2 seconds! This means your practice can print more dental models in less time.
The ANYCUBIC Photon Mono is our best value option and has a rating of 9.0. We like this one because it’s easy to use, hassle-free, and creates print layers without damaging the printer plate. It’s ideal for use in a small dental clinic looking for a competitive edge! With the information, we’ve supplied in our dental 3D printer review and our extensive buyer’s guide, choosing the best dental 3D printer just got considerably simpler!
Dental Braces and Retainers: Types, Care, What to Expect
Braces are dental tools that help correct problems with your teeth, like crowding, crooked teeth, or teeth that are out of alignment. Many people get braces when they’re teenagers, but adults get them too. As you wear them, braces slowly straighten and align your teeth so you have a normal bite. Some people get braces to adjust their smile.