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Could the Future of Invisalign be in 3D Printing?

3D printingIn a previous blog, we talked about DIY braces, and how it can really mess your teeth up. Today, we’re going to talk about another DIY braces hack, in which a college student used a 3D printer to make his own Invisalign trays.

Only, today’s DIY braces story has a lot more science behind it, than merely throwing some rubber bands on your gapped teeth. Much like the teenagers with their DIY rubber band braces, Dudley was sick and tired of hiding his smile.

A Smart College Student and DIY 3D Invisalign

As a college student, he didn’t have the money to access a professional treatment. He did, however, have access to his college’s 3D printer. After doing extensive research into orthodontics, Dudley learned how the plastic in Invisalign work to anatomically shift teeth. He researched the manufacturing step of Invisalign, figuring out the best way to make the plastic appliance shape his teeth.

With a little bit of creativity and a lot of orthodontic research, Dudley started making his DIY Invisalign tray. He started off by hitting up eBay and finding some “inert retainer plastic.” He then worked in his school’s digital fabrication lab, drawing up his model tray. The process wasn’t easy though.

According to Dudley, it was trial and error,” until, finally, he figured out that the lab’s Stratasys Dimension 1200es was able to print the tray with the exact amount of detail. He also used a “vacuum forming machine” and a “NextEngine laser scanner” to finish the process of making the tray.

However, before he could make the actual tray, he had to have casts made of his teeth. To do this, he used alginate and a permastone to make the cast. Much like the entire project, this portion was also makeshift. He began by putting a cast upside down in a yogurt container and filling it with Permastone. Who knew that Chobani would have its place in a DIY experiment? After setting his cast, he used the laser scanner to digitize the Permastone mold, so he could begin designing his very own Invisalign tray.

With the animation feature in the 3D software, Dudley made a series of tooth shifting frames, which he then exported as a model to create the different aligners. Instead of trying to go from start to finish, he was smart about numbering his aligners and creating very slight differences in each tray. Since the differences between each tray was so small, it would’ve been impossible for him to tell which week was which merely by looking at it.

Dudley wore his aligners every day for almost 24 hours a day for an entire 16 weeks, and he was able to see substantial improvement. He also decided to use his trays for whitening and also wore them at night to help fend off his gnarly tooth grinding habit. According to the college kid, he spent about $60 in materials, even though his college’s 3D printing technology probably cost a pretty penny. All in all, Amos Dudley was able to fix his crooked teeth by using a 3D printer and internet research.

However, we wouldn’t recommend others trying this at home. Amos was lucky that he didn’t need a big correction. For most orthodontic cases to go smoothly and quickly, they still need more than 16 weeks. Not to mention, with more complicated orthodontic cases, a lot more foresight needs to go into the shifting and maneuvering of teeth. We recommend that you leave this up to a qualified professional, like us at the Invisalign Centre for Invisible Orthodontics.

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