During a visit with Christian Saurman, the CEO and co-owner of NEO Lab, a family-owned digital orthodontic lab in Andover, Massachusetts, the Stratasys team wanted to learn how our technologies could make the day-to-day easier for their 120 employees who work with about 3,000 orthodontic and pediatric dental clinics around the country.
Saurman explained how time-consuming and messy it is to create acrylic devices using a traditional separator liquid because it requires careful application, more product and it tends to bleed around the model. It also takes longer to dry and because it’s hard to remove the appliance from the model, the model can easily crack. He liked how the support layers printed on PolyJet act like a natural separation to release the acrylic. And if Stratasys could figure out a way to infuse more of the separator into the final layers to make the device easily pop off it would be a game changer.
This discussion evolved into the development of the Stratasys Separator Digital Materials (DM). Separator DM infuses with the model resin, easing the separation of the acrylic device from the model — making the removal of wax and acrylic residues easy — resulting in better surface quality and decreased manual labor.
This game-changing feature was developed in partnership with Saurman and his team, which included fine-tuning the amount of support and model material needed to release the acrylic in order to achieve a better finish underneath the appliance.
“During production, we’re taking printed resin models and marrying them with acrylic resin. These two will bond, and then we’ve created one big piece of resin that isn’t coming apart,” says Saurman. “This is the reason we use Stratasys 3D printers for our acrylic work — the layers of support material provide a separation for the two resins that just isn’t naturally available in DLP or SLA printing.”
Now that Separator DM has been tested and perfected, Saurman says the impact of using it has been “huge” for NEO Lab. The initial reason he wanted to work on this project with Stratasys was to get a better finish on their appliances: “Ultimately, we want a better product that is going out to the offices.” But in doing so they found that there were so many other advantages that came out across the board using Separator DM, such as decreased manual labor, increased accuracy and a better experience for the customer.