Align Technologies is a fast-growing company that is looking to shake up the market for dental braces. Their Invisalign technology not only makes braces out of a clear polymer but also one’s that are easily removable. These appliances remove a lot of the headaches of traditional metallic or ceramic and wire style braces. The company is gaining quite some popularity in the industry as of recently.
The Invisalign Process
Dentists scan the oral cavity with a scanner instead of impressions using either a 3M TruDef or an iTero system. The intra oral digital scans are then converted into digital files. From this, shape engineered aligner molds are 3D printed and then manufactured using techniques including thermo-forming and milling, allowing the teeth to adjust and be guided into place.
The company creates their molds on 3D Systems’ Figure 4 Production System. The Figure 4 is a high-speed, industrial scale DLP system that is great for 3D printing dental appliances. They mass customize about 220,000 dental products every day.
3D Systems Figure 4 Production
- - Fully-integrated solution for direct digital production
- - Print > 100,000 parts per month
- - Automated job management and queuing
- - Automated material handling
- - Integrated post-processing (washing, drying & curing)
- - Industrial-grade materials
Align’s Growth Within the Dental Market
Align Technologies is on track to reaching a $1.3 billion in sales for 2017. Bringing a custom-made, FDA-approved product to market and growing at this rate is quite the accomplishment. In the first two quarters of this year, the company reported $666 million in sales. 91 percent of their revenue comes from the clear aligners; the remainder from their iTero 3D Scanning system that lets dentists quickly scan and model a patient’s teeth.
Align has only recently achieved prominence in the industry. Many still consider them a start-up considering how recently they have propped up their operations. The company is still growing and they have a wide list of advantages over the traditional competition. The scale of manufacturing is perhaps the biggest one.
The company produces not just 220,000 products a day, but more importantly, entirely customised ones. Braces need to fit the exact preferences of the consumer. What makes this business so unique is that it uses the principles of mass production along with those of tailor-made production. As a result they are producing things that fit the consumer exactly at a massive scale, leveraging the advantages of both modes of production.
Another advantage they have is that their products contain clear material. Aesthetically, this allows the braces to be more appealing and less intrusive. The polymer they are using has been FDA-approved, as well. They also have the advantage of being less painful that wires and ceramics.
The company is still growing and researching in new directions. Vice President Srini Kaza has noted that they are always conducting materials research. “These new emerging material formulations will even surpass the quality we are seeing now, enabling the industry to print more functional and biocompatible parts directly in the printers,” he said.
Currently, the company is one of the leaders in their field and the industry is only growing. While many of their patents are about to expire soon, they plan to keep their edge in the industry through R and D.
Featured Image picture retrieved from Align Technologies website.