3D Printing

Smiling student uses 3D printer to make plastic braces on the cheap

After making the molds, Dudley used a vacuum forming machine and dental plastic to create his pathway to the perfect smile
After making the molds, Dudley used a vacuum forming machine and dental plastic to create his pathway to the perfect smile
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After making the molds of each step in the alignment, Dudley used a vacuum forming machine and dental plastic to create his pathway to the perfect smile
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After making the molds of each step in the alignment, Dudley used a vacuum forming machine and dental plastic to create his pathway to the perfect smile
Before Dudley's self-styled alignment
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Before Dudley's self-styled alignment
This first step was to create an alginate mold of his teeth, which he then filled with liquid Permastone
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This first step was to create an alginate mold of his teeth, which he then filled with liquid Permastone
This first step was to create an alginate mold of his teeth, which he then filled with liquid Permastone
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This first step was to create an alginate mold of his teeth, which he then filled with liquid Permastone
After making the molds, Dudley used a vacuum forming machine and dental plastic to create his pathway to the perfect smile
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After making the molds, Dudley used a vacuum forming machine and dental plastic to create his pathway to the perfect smile
Dudley used a NextEngine 3D laser scanner to create a digital model of his teeth
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Dudley used a NextEngine 3D laser scanner to create a digital model of his teeth
This first step was to create an alginate mold of his teeth, which he then filled with liquid Permastone
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This first step was to create an alginate mold of his teeth, which he then filled with liquid Permastone
After Dudley's self-styled alignment
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After Dudley's self-styled alignment

Orthodontics don't tend to mix too well with self-sustaining undergraduate students, whose budgetary extravagances might extend to the odd double serving of instant noodles. But faced with crooked teeth and access to a 3D printer, digital design student Amos Dudley has taken matters into his own hands, straightening out his smile with a set of DIY plastic aligners.

While not totally dismayed at the state of his teeth, Dudley says they were crooked enough to make him self-conscious when smiling. So much so that he had started to avoid flashing his pearly whites altogether, something he felt was impacting his overall happiness. But without the money on hand for a professional orthodontic alignment, Dudley began to study up.

He came across an image of a name-brand aligner that appeared to bear the markings of a 3D printed product, which got him thinking, why not use the facilities at his New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) to craft his own? After a careful reading of the professional process for orthodontic alignment he began to put his ideas into action.

This first step was to create an alginate mold of his teeth, which he then filled with liquid Permastone. After tidying up imperfections in the casting with a razor blade, Dudley then used a NextEngine 3D laser scanner to create a digital model of his teeth. From here, he created animations where each of the crooked teeth traveled into their desired positions.

Dudley used a NextEngine 3D laser scanner to create a digital model of his teeth
Dudley used a NextEngine 3D laser scanner to create a digital model of his teeth

This involved measuring the total distance each would shift and dividing it by the maximum recommended distance a tooth can travel per aligner. He then produced models for each of the separate steps in his alignment using a Stratasys Dimension 1200es in the lab at NJIT, which he said allowed him an x, y accuracy of under 1 mm (0.4 in).

After making the molds of each step in the alignment, Dudley used a vacuum forming machine and dental plastic to create his pathway to the perfect smile
After making the molds of each step in the alignment, Dudley used a vacuum forming machine and dental plastic to create his pathway to the perfect smile

After carefully labeling each of the models to make sure they didn't get mixed up, Dudley then used a vacuum forming machine and dental plastic to create his pathway to the perfect smile. After using a Dremel and sanding drum to smooth out the edges of the aligners, Dudley put his DIY dental devices to work.

"They're much more comfortable than braces, and fit my teeth quite well," he writes on his blog. "I was pleased to find, when I put the first one on, that it only seemed to put any noticeable pressure on the teeth that I planned to move - a success!"

Before Dudley's self-styled alignment
Before Dudley's self-styled alignment

After Dudley's self-styled alignment
After Dudley's self-styled alignment

Dudley has now been wearing the aligners 24 hours a day for 16 weeks, only taking them out to eat. He says they also work well as whitening trays and prevent teeth grinding throughout the night. Judging by the before and after photos, the results are certainly impressive. Though Dudley will not be taking orders for his orthodontic aligners, his successful (and brave) approach to crafting the cheap dental device could well make a few in the cosmetic orthodontics industry a little uneasy.

Source: Amos Dudley's blog

8 comments
frogola
you got to love this.and the money he saved.
Dan Parker
The article claims the appliances were cheap to make, but never mentioned a specific cost.
noteugene
So this guy, instead of going into business for himself, decides to stay in college where he can get a job slaving away for someone else for 40 yrs so that he can hopefully retire someday? I read about this the other day from some other source. The kids concerns about liability is nonsense. His time would be well spent talking to others, finding out how to deal with that area of concern instead of just walking away. He could be a multi millionaire in 10 yrs. Smart of him to develop this, not so smart to let fear dominate him. If he doesn't run with this, someone else will & he'll be grinding his teeth for sure.
Robert Volk
While I applaud his ingenuity and research, it is a bit disingenuous to say these were cheap to make. They were only cheap because he had access to University level 3D printers, 3D scanners, and expensive software, as well as an expensive vacuum thermo-forming machine to make the final pieces. you could spend $20,000 for all the machinery he used. Even good home printers, scanners, software, and vacuum forming equipment would still cost many thousands of dollars.
sk8dad
Great concept. More DIY is needed in this world.
Island Architect
Absolutely Bravo! He Should be teaching in Dent School. And set up a Lab. His finances will be set. Bright young man!
exodous
+Robert Volk That is what I thought, but with home 3D printers getting cheaper/better and more ways for DIYers to scan in 3D it is something for the future. Maybe only geeks will have straight teeth for cheap in the future?
NancyRodriguez
With 3D printers things have become easier. A vast struggle is involved growing up with braces: http://guff.com/the-biggest-struggles-everyone-whos-had-braces-will-remember. If you can make your own braces for cheap then it is worth trying. This guy have done a great job and should try to set up a business out of it.