By now, you’ve heard the horror stories associated with do-it-yourself braces. In case you need a reminder, my colleague Jason blogged on this topic with some rather interesting photos.
Well there’s something to be said about being a DIY-er—if you go through great lengths to learn how to do something properly! That’s what college student Amos Dudley has demonstrated by using a 3D printer to a create a DIY version of invisible braces. According to a report by Digital Trends, Dudley researched orthodontics and how plastic Invisalign trays work anatomically to shift teeth. He also studied the manufacturing process and used the Stratasys Dimension 1200es 3D printer in his school’s digital fabrication lab. He coupled the 3D printer with a vacuum forming machine and a NextEngine laser scanner, and purchased retainer plastic on eBay.
Then came the casting. He used alginate for the mold and Permastone for the cast, and used the laser scanner to convert the Permastone mold into a digital format that could be used for the design of the invisible plastic tray. Using the 3D software, Dudley created a series of frames showing the tooth moving from the crooked to the straight position. Each frame was exported as the new STL model, and each model served as a template for the different aligner tray that would work successively to move the tooth slowly into the correct position. The retainer material was applied to the 3D-printed aligner templates in the vacuum machine.
Dudley’s invention, which he dubbed “Orthoprint,” worked! His teeth were straight after wearing the trays around the clock for 16 weeks. The aligners also serve as a tray for whitening and can function as a nighttime guard. A straightener, a whitening tray, and a nighttime guard all in one, and all for the cost of $60 in materials.
It's a fascinating story of ingenuity, but it's wise to add, "Don't try this at home!"