Glidewell Laboratories is one of the largest dental labs in the world. Glidewell started using 3D printers for additive manufacturing back in 2002, and has been innovating and making improvements to their hardware and workflow ever since. Glidewell 3D prints a high volume of teeth, bridges, crowns, and other dental products that require a high degree of customization and dimensional accuracy to fit the unique dimensions of each customer’s mouth.
In 2015, Glidewell needed to replace their 3D printers on their production line that had reached their end of life. Their R&D team had three main goals for their upgrade process: To keep the capital cost of acquiring new printers as low as possible, to increase the production of their additive manufacturing line, and to find a 3D printer that would enable them to use a wider range of materials.
Therefore, rather than being tied to a closed hardware-software-materials system with expensive, proprietary materials, Glidewell sought an open solution that they could customize for their specific needs. They began to experiment with a few Embers.
“We have already seen such a positive response in production with the parts we have made on the Ember printers that we’ve placed the order for many more to upgrade our facility.”
- Steve Maginnis, CTD, R&D, Glidewell Dental
Glidewell now has a fleet of Ember printers installed on their production line that are printing approximately 1,000 dental models per Ember, per week. Due to the open design of Ember, they were able to write custom software to prepare and deliver print jobs to their printers and monitor the progress of the jobs. Ember’s open materials enabled them to modify the formulations of their resins. The Glidewell team was able to fine-tune Ember's hardware, software, and materials to meet their specific needs.
“When Steve came with the idea of buying the first Ember, there was a lot of shock to it. Little tiny machine, what can it do? I think the experience turned out very positive, as you can tell. We have 20 (Embers) now. A very positive experience for that little machine that turned out to be a big help in many ways.”
- Wolfgang Friebauer, Director of R&D and Education, Glidewell Dental