Prodways machines to 3D print up to a million dental aligners per year in ‘largest ever project’

French engineering firm Groupe Gorgé’s 3D printing subsidiary Prodways has been awarded a contract to supply a ‘major industrial project,’ that will see its machines used to produce up to a million dental aligners per year. 

As part of an initiative by a ‘world-leading medical and dental distributor,’ Prodways’ has been contracted to ship eight MOVINGLight 3D printers and its related materials to multiple sites across the U.S. Over the next 18 months, this install base could eventually grow to as many as twenty machines, providing the firm with its largest project to date, and a recurring source of revenue for years to come. 

Prodways' ProMaker LD20 3D printers.
Prodways has received an initial order for eight ProMaker LD20 3D printers, but this number could rise to a total of twenty. Image via Prodways.

Prodways’ 2021 revenue boom 

Initially called ‘Phidias Technologies,’ Prodways was bought and renamed by Groupe Gorgé in 2013, as a means of bringing 3D printing pioneer André-Luc Allanic’s MOVINGLight technology to market. Like other DLP systems, MOVINGLight machines use high-powered LEDs to photopolymerize resins into parts, but in dental in particular, they’re said to be capable of achieving high-throughput results.

Over the last year or so, the firm has continued to build on MOVINGLight’s mass-production capabilities, adding both 3D Super-Resolution algorithms and Oqton software compatibility to its machines. These upgrades appear to have driven client demand, as Prodways was the fastest-growing segment of Groupe Gorgé in Q3, although this was also thanks to a materials deal with the Straumann Group

Following the recent commercial success of its subsidiary, Groupe Gorgé says that it has no intention of selling it, despite unveiling fresh plans to simplify its corporate structure in October 2021. Instead of divesting Prodways, as the firm has done with other parts of its non-autonomous robotics-related portfolio, it has hatched a plan to ‘deconsolidate’ it, by distributing many of its shares to shareholders. 

In order to achieve this, Groupe Gorgé intends to convene a combined general meeting of shareholders on December 14 2021, where it will propose an exceptional distribution in kind in which three Prodways shares will be issued for every two of its own. If agreed, the move would see this distribution in kind of Prodways shares paid on December 22 2021, with Groupe Gorgé retaining around 5.9% of the capital.

Raphaël Gorgé, Executive Chairman Prodways Group and Chairman and CEO of Groupe Gorgé. Photo via Groupe Gorgé
Raphaël Gorgé, CEO of Groupe Gorgé, said in October that it has no intention of selling Prodways. Photo via Groupe Gorgé.

A ‘multi-million dollar’ dental venture 

As part of the initial agreement signed with its unnamed client, Prodways is set to ship four of its eight-strong machine order to the U.S. by December 31 2021, with the rest expected to be delivered in Q1 2022. Each of these 3D printers will be MOVINGLight LD20s, the higher-end systems in the company’s dental range, which are capable of mass-producing aligners at a rate of up to fifty units per hour. 

Featuring dual-385nm wavelength projectors and a customizable build platform, Prodways says that its ProMaker LD20 Models and LD20 Plus systems offer users both “industrial productivity” and flexibility, thus in practise, it believes they also have applications beyond transparent aligners, in the production of master models, drill guides and castable patterns. 

Alongside this shipment of LD20 systems, Prodways is set to provide its client with the newly-launched PLASTCure Absolute Aligner material. Designed specifically to address orthodontic modelling applications, the liquid resin will be in high-demand during the project, and if Prodways’ customer reaches its lofty production goals, it’s expected to need up to 30 tons of the polymer every year. 

Describing the contract as a “major commercial success,” Prodways adds that it has scope for “further development phases” as well, providing it with future revenue opportunities, while more broadly, it sees the deal as a way of “reinforcing its position as a leading player in orthodontic 3D printing,” and helping to further the digitization of tooth realignment treatments. 

A batch of Prodways 3D printed dental aligners.
Prodways is one of several 3D printing firms now operating in the dental space. Image via Prodways.

3D printing’s dental drive 

While Prodways continues to carve out its own share of the dental 3D printing market, it’s far from the only machine manufacturer operating in the sector. In September 2021, Formlabs launched a raft of updates to its portfolio, including the dental validation of its Fuse 1 SLS 3D printer and reformulation of its Model Resin. 

Materialise, meanwhile, has released a new easy-to-use Dental Module for its Magics software, that’s specifically designed to help streamline and scale the orthodontic 3D printing workflow. The add-on facilitates automatic print preparation within several common dental applications, such as the production of crowns, bridges, and partial bases.

On the material front, Liqcreate also unveiled two orthodontic-oriented resins in June 2021 with Dental Model Pro Grey and Dental Model Pro Beige. Developed alongside dental professionals, the SLA and DLP-compatible materials feature ultra-low shrinkage and a matte finish, making them ideal for manufacturing highly-detailed models.

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Featured image shows a batch of Prodways 3D printed dental aligners. Image via Prodways.