Interview: “3D printing in dentistry is much more than just a new technology”
Patrick Thurm is the managing director and general manager for Europe at SprintRay, a young 3D printing company that opened its European branch office in May 2021 in Weiterstadt in Germany, close to Frankfurt Airport. In this interview, Thurm talks about the current state of the 3D-printing market and what future developments he foresees for this technology and traditional milling systems.
Mr Thurm, 3D-printing systems were introduced to dentistry about two decades ago. However, the technology has been rather costly. Do you think that more dental laboratories and practices will consider 3D printers in the near future now that new companies are entering the market and offering more affordable solutions?
All dental practices, laboratories and even patients can benefit from 3D printing. It offers frictionless integration with intra-oral scanners and digital workflows, fast in-house production for many indications, and efficient treatment workflows. It boasts rapid development, with many innovations in material for an even broader range of indications. Needless to say, 3D printing also allows for faster delivery of solutions to the patient, and investing in our solution is affordable for practices and smaller laboratories.
Based on your experience, which have been the quickest countries in Europe to adopt 3D-printing technology, and in which countries has the development been rather slow?
In general, countries with a higher rate of digitisation of laboratory scanners, intra-oral scanners and chairside dentistry are adopting the technology faster, and at the moment, these countries are Germany, Italy and Spain. However, other countries are catching up quickly, as the benefit of reduced production costs, time to market and patient satisfaction are valid in every market.
What impact did the COVID-19 pandemic have on the dental 3D-printing market and on your company in particular?
The beginning of the pandemic was an unprecedented time for all of us. However, many dental professionals started looking for new solutions to increase relevance for their patients, and that’s when 3D printing and intra-oral scanners became the most popular investment. SprintRay, which provides technology solutions to the dental market only, has benefited greatly from this. Our teams did an outstanding job under pandemic circumstances to further develop and enhance our solutions, and we have invested a great deal in sales, services and support structure in order to become a relevant partner for dental practices during these uncertain times. Having achieved this very positive development in the US market, we made the decision to start a business in Europe and subsequently opened our European headquarters.
Having lived in a pandemic for over a year now, dentists and laboratories are seeking efficient solutions for their practices and their patients, and a 3D printer from SprintRay is a perfect investment.
The majority of dental impressions are still fabricated using conventional methods. What developments do you foresee in the coming years in this field?
We are expecting a fast growth and adoption rate in intra-oral scanners and dental technology, despite the pandemic. By purchasing a SprintRay 3D printer, the users of intra-oral scanners and CAD/CAM technology are able to offer solutions that further accelerate the fast adoption of intra-oral scanning for their patients.
Cost efficiency, speed and usability are key advantages of 3D printing. The material used is the most important factor for innovation in the upcoming fields. More and more indications can be printed already, and more are coming in the near future. If one has an intra-oral scanner, there is no reason why one should not invest in a 3D printer.
Do you think that 3D-printing technology could replace milling systems in the long run?
Yes and no. Yes, because printing is cheaper and faster for many indications, and no, because materials such as ceramics and metals will always have their place in dentistry. I believe that milling and printing will go hand in hand.
Editorial note: More information about SprintRay and it’s 3D printers can be found at en.sprintray.com/. Visitors to IDS can learn more about SprintRay’s products at Booth J018–L019 in Hall 3.1.