Dental 3D printing: The importance of UV curing ovens

By Dr Luis De Bellis, adjunct professor at the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Chile

A vital step in 3D printing biocompatible parts, Dr Luis De Bellis explains why the post-processing step requires quality assurance in the form of biocompatibility and mechanical property testing.

Venturing into the 3D printing world

Starting out as a dental technician in 2001 and studying dentistry at a later stage has given me a significant advantage in implantology and employing high tech in my work — I understand the manufacturing processes and learned how digital tools can make my work more efficient early on.

During my postgraduate studies in implantology, I discovered the 3D printing world. While the course covered some details about additive manufacturing, it was too generic to make use of it right away. But it caught my attention and I knew this was the future of medicine. 

Consequently, I bought an extrusion 3D printer, which I used to learn about this printing modality. It also helped me to learn how to transform DICOM files into STL and be able to achieve 3D models with smooth surfaces.  

After about a year of using it, I bought a kit to build a cartesian laser printer. However, it was a real disaster due to the sheer number of moving parts involved. Nonetheless, this experience was the nudge I needed to build my first DLP printer with a projector.

Wisdom comes from experience

I am currently developing my skills with bioprinter and bio-inks, used to print functional tissues. Through this journey, I discovered a similarity to what I first experienced when making my first impressions with resin — the role post-processing plays for the printed parts. 

Many people dedicated to 3D printing do not give enough importance to the impact that the post-processing of the manufactured part will have. It is critical to highlight that post-processing helps us obtain more resistant pieces and contributes to applications that will not be cytotoxic. In other words, we will be able to guarantee to comply with international health standards.

It is worth noting that not all curing units are the same. Unfortunately, often, we can find many enthusiasts using nail ovens to post-process 3D-printed parts. These ovens do not fall within any specific classification. Therefore, are unable to achieve uniform post-polymerisation. Consequently, the risk of obtaining a piece with unintended physical and chemical characteristics will be extremely high.

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