Gideon Balloch is dental product lead at Formlabs. Balloch drives the company's dental product development efforts in its push to become the leader in the dental 3D printing space. Previously, Balloch spearheaded the launch of Formlabs products in international markets including China and Japan. Balloch holds a degree in mechanical engineering from McGill University.
Formlabs designs and manufactures powerful and accessible 3D printing systems. Headquartered in Boston with offices in Germany, Japan, and China, the company was founded in 2011 by a team of engineers and designers from the MIT Media Lab and Center for Bits and Atoms. Formlabs is establishing the industry benchmark for professional 3D printing for engineers, designers, and manufacturers around the globe, and accelerating innovation in a variety of industries, including education, dentistry, healthcare, jewelry, and research. Formlabs products include the Form 2 SLA 3D printer, Fuse 1 SLS 3D printer, Form Cell manufacturing solution, and Pinshape marketplace of 3D designs. Formlabs also develops its own suite of high-performance materials for 3D printing, as well as best-in-class 3D printing software.
VIDEO - DUwHF #996 Gideon Balloch
AUDIO - DUwHF #996 - Gideon Balloch
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Howard: It's just a huge honor for me today to be podcast interviewing Gideon Balloch, Dental Product Lead for Formlabs. He drives the company's dental product and development efforts, and it's pushed to become the leader in the dental 3D printing space. Previously, he spearheaded the launch of Formlabs products in international markets, including China and Japan. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering from McGill University. McGill? Is that in Toronto?
Gideon: It's in Montreal.
Howard: Oh, Montreal. So, do you speak French?
Gideon: Yeah. A fair amount, yeah.
Howard: Nice. Formlabs designs and manufactures, powerful and accessible 3D printing systems. Headquartered in Boston with offices in Germany, Japan, and China, the company was founded in 2011 by a team of engineers and designers from the MIT Media Lab and Center for Bits and Atoms. Formlabs is establishing the industry benchmark for professional 3D printing for engineers, designers, and manufacturers around the globe. And, accelerating innovation in a variety of industries including education, dentistry, healthcare, jewelry, and research.
Howard: Formlabs' products include the Form two SLA 3D printer, Fuse one SLS 3D printer, Form Cell manufacturing solution, and pinshape marketplace and 3D designs. Formlabs also develops its own suite of high-performance materials for 3D printing, as well as the best in class 3D printing software. So, when did this 3D printing actually really begin?
Gideon: Well, it depends if you're talking about the industry in general or if you're talking about Formlabs itself. You know, it's very exciting time to be in 3D printing, especially a very exciting time for 3D printing to really be taking off in dental. But the technology itself was invented in 1986.
Howard: Wow. That was a long time ago.
Gideon: Yeah, so it's a long time ago and there's been a lot of growth in recent years for a couple of major reasons. But, it's very interesting for me, coming from outside the dental space, and then learning a lot about it over the last two years to really be talking with dental users and helping them understand that actually this technology has been used in the dental world, probably since the late nineties. But, it's only really now that it's becoming accessible enough for a dental lab of any size or a dental office of any size to really be taking advantage of it.
Howard: So, where is it growing fastest? Is it more chair-side in the dental office or in the dental laboratories?
Gideon: It really depends. I mean, we're seeing a ton of growth on the dental lab side as it goes from a technology, really reserved more for milling centers or really large labs to something that any dental lab can use. And, we generally thought heading into it that chair-side was going to be the future, look five, ten years down the line and that's when we're really seeing some uptake, but, we've had a lot of response from office users of all sizes. So for us as a company, we're actually seeing a lot in the clinical space as well.
Howard: Which countries are adopting this first? Where's it really hot first?
Gideon: I think primarily the US and Europe are the main first adopters of this, for digital dentistry. I think there's a lot of excitement in the rest of the world. But you know, I think in general, those are larger markets and the rest of the world's going to take a bit of time to really catch up to that.
Howard: So, do you think 3D printing is going to replace CAD/CAM instead of starting with a block and reducing it, but just printing it up from scratch. Do you see this as a replacement technology for CAD/CAM? Or, do you think there'll be both?
Gideon: It's a very interesting question. I think actually it's going to be part of growing the CAD/CAM world generally. You're asking specifically about milling machines and whether we think it will replace that. Right now, I actually see them as mostly complimentary products, which are better at different things. But I think as 3D printing materials get a lot better over time, that's something where printers are going to really take over a lot more of this space.
Gideon: So, just to give you an example. One thing that's a really great application for 3D printing right now, is a 3D printing splints or surgical guides. To mill an object like this out of a CNC dental milling machine would take several hours. It would waste a lot of material and you generally would get less good quality of a part, then you could get out of a 3D printer. So, that's an area where a printer has a major advantage right now. At the same time, building a high-end aesthetic, final restorations, that's a place where CNC milling is doing a great job right now and it's going to continue to do a great job for the near future. And that's the space where CNC mills are really going to still beat out 3D printers for the time being.
Howard: Yeah, because you'll have to get up material to print that's as hard as zirconium, right?
Gideon: Yeah. So I think there's some material limitations there in terms of long-term properties, and then there's some aesthetic concerns as well. The technology that's gone into CNC milling materials, to give them nice translucencies, to give the multiple shades. That's all really, really good and exciting and it's going to take a bit of time for 3D printing to catch up to that. But, you know the CAD/CAM world as a whole, is growing very considerably. And that's what's really been great for Formlabs over the last two years, is that we've been able to come in at a moment when digital dentistry really is in a growth phase as a whole.
Gideon: Companies, like 3Shape have put a lot of time into advancing the scanning technologies and the software. There are many other software companies out there as well who have done a really great job emulating those traditional workflows on the computer screen. Formlabs is able to come in, as well as some other 3D printing manufacturers and provide a really efficient, high quality, reliable digital manufacturing endpoint that takes advantage of that. And so we really see ourselves as joining that movement as a whole.
Howard: You guys got some impressive numbers. You say, Form two users have completed more than a hundred thousand surgeries with dental [inaudible 6:23], made more than twenty thousand splints and printed more than one million 3D printed dental parts.
Gideon: Yeah, I mean it's really amazing. I think when we were starting this two years ago, we were looking as a company and trying to think is dental worth looking at, at all. And, we were trying to argue for investing a bit more in this space and we were thinking that was going to grow really gradually over time. We've been very surprised at how quickly it's picked up. And I really think that's because there's a couple of things that we do differently that has really changed people's mindsets about what 3D printing can be, how easy it is to use, how reliable it can be. And so I think people have been really waiting for this moment for a long time, which we didn't realize and it's been really great for us to work with a lot of great labs and a lot of great clinicians to learn a lot about that and plug into that space.
Howard: So, most of the people listening to you right now are dentists, they're not dental lab types, but what is your, hot selling 3D printer for the dentists and the dental office?
Gideon: So we actually only make one 3D printer. It's the one sitting behind me right here. It's called the Formlabs Form two. As a starter package, it's $3,350. Generally, if you're going to pick up some other things, it'll start around $5,000. And that's selling really well to dental offices. There's three main reasons there. One is that it's a very accurate, very precise printer. So you know, everyone wants to make high quality parts and that's the number one thing that's the most important. But the reason why we been growing so fast is because the printer itself is extremely reliable and it's easy to use. You can get printing in fifteen minutes and across our whole user base of tens of thousands of users, we see 95% print success rates. That's something you can rely on.
Gideon: And honestly, one of the things that has helped 3D printing back historically. And then the third thing is that, at that price point, and with the material pricing that we have, it's something that just makes business sense. A practice user can get a [inaudible 8:32] back in months, not years, and with a low upfront cost as well.
Howard: So, it's thirty-three fifty?
Gideon: That's right, thirty-three fifty.
Howard: And, when you say you printed a million 3D printed dental parts, what are those parts?
Gideon: So, there's a variety of things people are printing for the office users. The main applications that are most interesting, are the ones that are the simplest. And so, that will be printing surgical guides, like this one right here, printing splints like the one I was holding up earlier, or printing models that would be used for thermal forming clear liners, like in this case, we have a clear liner here.
Gideon: In addition to that, our lab users are doing more complex things, printing crown bridge models with removable dyes, printing diagnostic wax ups and sending out those cases. And, there's a lot that we're working on as well, in terms of materials that we'd like to release soon. For example, printing removable prosthetics, like dentures, temporaries, that sort of thing. So, the space is really growing and we've seen prints pretty much across the board there.
Howard: So how close are we to where we could print our own orthodontic clear aligners and not have to have an Invisalign bill?
Gideon: Yeah. So actually there's a lot of orthodontists who own the printers right now, who are actually doing that in-house, with the help of software that they can use in-house or with the help of design services from companies like FullContour. You can't directly 3D print on an aligner, like this, on any 3D printer right now. But, what you can do is, you can print this model. Thermo form the plastic down onto it and then cut away the parts that you don't need in order to make the aligners yourselves. For example, we have one major orthodontist in Hawaii, Dr Sean Holliday. He prints hundreds and hundreds of these things over the busy summer period. And bringing that in house for him really just made sense, especially given that he can just scale up the number of Form twos he has, based on whatever production needs he has for that year.
Howard: Wow. I'd like to get him on the show. What's his name?
Gideon: Dr Sean Holliday.
Howard: Dr Sean Holliday. Can you introduce me to him?
Gideon: Yeah, absolutely. We could introduce you.
Howard: What island is he on?
Gideon: That's a great question and I actually don't know the answer to it, but I'd be very interested in going to visit him and finding out.
Howard: So you said, FullContour. Talk about FullContour. I'm on the site now, "Brace yourself FullContour". So what do they do?
Gideon: So, the steps that you need to do, to actually print are really four-fold. First, you have to scan to get the patient condition, then you have to design the parts in some software, then you can print them and then there's some post-processing you have to do. And so for office users, outsourcing that whole process can make sense, which would be just working with [inaudible 11:51], but in sourcing the printing stuff can actually be very easy.
Gideon: At that point, the actual software step of taking your scans, designing a treatment and designing a prosthetic on top of that, is the most difficult part. And so, there are a number of different design companies out there that offer just design services only to users that are interested in it. So, what FullContour does is, they're a digital only lab. They'll work with anyone who wants to get a digital file back, so they'll help take your digital files, design the treatment alongside you, design a prosthetic and then send you that file for printing.
Gideon: There's another company that's very similar to that called, 360imaging that does it specifically for surgical guides. They'll work with the doctors to actually plan the surgical plan, design the surgical guide itself, but then they'll send the file back to the user to actually print. And the reason why that's interesting for dental practices is because the printing portion of that is actually very easy and they don't have to get the technician experience in-house to be able to learn the software.
Howard: So, are the two major markets in dentistry, orthodontics and implants? Is that where this is taking off the most?
Gideon: Right now, yes. Right now, there's a lot of interest in terms of specialists. So, DDS's and orthodontists, people like that who can take advantage of printing splints, printing surgical guides, printing models for aligners. But, we actually see some uptick in the general dentists' market, as well as if you look across in the lab side, a lot of interest just in terms of your general full service labs, because they can print models and because they can start to add a lot more to their dental products.
Gideon: What we're doing as a whole here, not just because of ourselves, but because of the great software made by companies like 3Shape, and some great scanning equipment as well, as we're making it easier to make digital dentistry, the standard of care. What we want to see is, we want to see it so it's not like you're going to be spending more money in order to be doing things digitally because it's cool. We want people to be doing things digitally because it's the less expensive thing for them to do because they spend less time with patients, because it's less stressful for them. And so, if you talk about having a two to $3 surgical guide like this one here, that's something where we see people doing guided surgery on 100% of their cases when they used to really just reserve it for the most difficult cases.
Gideon: And that's where you're seeing people use it, fifty times as much. Not twice as much.
Howard: I see my buddy Matt Roberts, who I've known for thirty years, he has a YouTube video. Have you met Matt yet?
Gideon: Yeah, I've met Matt. He's a great person.
Howard: Oh my God, he's probably the top dental technician there is. I mean, nobody takes it more serious than that guy. So what's he think of all this?
Gideon: So Matt is a great user. He's actually got four printers now, just started off with one and it worked out so well for him that he was able to expand on that. I think if you were to ask him, he'd say that these printers are the most reliable printers he's used and that's the single biggest reason why he's able to use 3D printing day in and day out in his practice. So, actually he uses the printers. He used the printers initially for diagnostic wax ups and he saw such success within that he was able to double the caseload that his technicians were able to take. So, each of them was able to do twice as many cases per day. He was able to reduce the case turnaround time by three days, while also keeping his costs in check. And so for him, it was kind of a home run and he was having such success with the diagnostic wax ups that he got more printers and added more applications and he's continuing to scale up from there. So, super interesting to see a lab like his already have four printers because they're a relatively small, very high-end, very focused on quality lab and so we're very happy to continue making him [inaudible 16:15] to printers.
Howard: He's the ringleader for so many labs. I mean, so people just follow Matt. So, is this starting to take off in these smaller labs to as opposed to just the big giant labs?
Gideon: Yeah, we're seeing uptick on both the small lab side, as well as the large labs. And that's the beauty of a system like this. If you're a lab that really only has enough case work to justify one or two printers, you can make that sort of investment. You're not making a $30,000 or a $50,000 or higher investment in a larger piece of equipment. You can start there and you can scale up. If you're a large lab, you know, we work with labs who have fifteen or twenty Form twos, all in a row, all printing different materials in applications. And so, the Form two system is something that can really scale with you.
Gideon: And if you actually go to our website and look at the Form Cell section, we're actually trying to build on that by having an automated 3D printing platform that takes the Form two, automates the processes behind scheduling jobs, starting prints and washing the prints so that larger labs can reduce their per part costs. They can increase their throughput and they can enable twenty-four seven manufacturing.
Howard: So that would be at your website Formlabs.com?
Gideon: Yeah, under the Form Cell section, or if you just Googled 'Form Cell', you'd be able to see that as well.
Howard: Form two, Form one, software, learn, support? Where would I go? Form two?
Gideon: That's a good question.
Howard: Thought you said go to Form Cell.
Gideon: Form Cell, yeah.
Howard: Okay. So, one of the big questions that dentists always talk about is an open platform versus a closed. They kind of like to mix and match all different types of companies and software. Is your's open or closed?
Gideon: So ours is an open system in the sense that we can work with any software company that exports STLs. And those companies generally tend to work with any scanner that you have. So, if you've got like a particular type of scanner, you can pick whatever software you want as long as that can export an STL, which is sort of like the standard file format for the 3D printing world. Then you can bring that model into our software printed on our printer and have it to use. So, 3Shape is a great example of an open system, [inaudible 18:54 Exocat?] is open as well. There's several different systems out there which would work well. And we're also trying to work with manufacturers to integrate their software with ours. So, a couple of weeks from now our 3Shape integration is actually going to ship and you're going to be able to, in their implant studio software, go straight from designing your treatment to generating the surgical guide to printing. We're both trying to work in an open way for people to be able to mix and match the solutions they want, as well as trying to build some integrations in order to give people smoother experiences they can get.
Howard: So 3Shape seems to be leading this oral scanning technology. Would you agree with that?
Gideon: I definitely agree. 3Shape is a very strong player. We work very closely with them. They've got a great team, a lot of great engineers and product people, so they make really fantastic scanners. They make fantastic software really to try to make the digital dentistry experience as easy and as straightforward as possible. There are some other great companies out there as well, but I think the ones that are really leading are the ones that can make the software experience as simple as possible.
Howard: Steve jobs taught everybody that, remember when Microsoft came out, every time they release a product, there was a whole industry of CDs and consultants and you always needed someone to show you how it works and Jobs said, "We're going to make this so amazing that a six year old and a sixty year old grandfather can configure it out without having to buy a CD". So, 3Shape's out of Copenhagen, Denmark. Did you get a trip to Denmark yet?
Gideon: I got a trip to Denmark. I visited their offices. Yeah, there's a great team there. And it's funny that you mentioned that like a six year old can do it, because you know, me coming from no dental background at all, I actually found the 3Shape software, it was really easy for me to learn. I can design a guide in about ten minutes. It's probably not the best treatment plan that you'll have because I'm not clinically that knowledgeable. But yeah, they do a really great effort to make that as simple as possible.
Howard: What about the Scandinavian brother, Helsinki Finland Planmeca? Are they leading in oral scanning?
Gideon: Planmeca make a very good scanner. And I think the general trend right now is that pretty much any scanner that you could buy on the market is going to get you, clinically, very good results. There's going to be some differences in terms of wireless versus not wireless. There's definitely a difference in terms of costs across the board. So in terms of accuracy and quality, I think a lot of the companies are up there. Where 3Shape might have a slight difference is that there's a bit better Polish with their software and it can kind of come through the stages a little bit more easily.
Howard: Now, are there any big brand names that don't export STL files? Does Dentsply Sirona? [inaudible 21:59] or 3M™ True Def.
Gideon: So, 3M™ True Def is, they have open export to whatever dental CAD software that you'd like to use. The big company that has been a little bit slower to pick this up was [inaudible 22:13] Sirona but even they're seeing that, in order to be able to grow in this space and retain customers, that they have to open up that type of STL export as well. So in their software and Cerec inlab software, it's possible to export the STL now for printing guides, for example. And I think that that's something that they're going to continue to add into their other modules as well. I think generally people are seeing that people making buying decisions, that dental offices and dental labs are generally preferring to be able to mix and match the solutions they want and that trend is definitely going to continue.
Howard: So, where is the 3D printer actually made?
Gideon: So, I'm sitting in right now in our office in Boston. We have over three hundred people here, the majority of which are engineers. So we do all the R and D, all of our actual development in Boston. We also work with contract manufacturers to make the printer and the resin. And so, those contract manufacturers or both in the US, as well as in Europe. So it's made in both of those locations. We're contract manufacturers, but we also have an extensive manufacturing team that's heavily involved in the day to day operations there to make sure that every printer that comes off the line is high quality.
Howard: So, let's switch over to resins. When did resins really start and where are they at in the evolutionary scale and where do you see them evolving into the future?
Gideon: Yeah, so resins are really a key because what residents do is they unlock different applications for you. So if you have a printer it can be useful to print models, but if you're really going to get into direct printing of anything, you need to move into more exotic material properties and particularly into bio-compatibility. And so, if you look at Formlabs as a company, when we were looking to get into the dental space, we launched our bio-compatible material for surgical guides, which we call Dental SG. And that was really huge for us because the dental world could see that we're focused on dentistry, that we're working very closely with clinicians in labs and that we're going to continue growing in that space. We've since added also our dental model material, which is high accuracy, which we worked with a lot of different partner labs to make sure it functions well. And we've also added our LT material, which is a longer term material for bite splints and occlusal guards. If you look at the trends with materials, I think you'll continue to see more direct printed applications that are available on 3D printers, as well as better and better and material properties. Materials that are tougher, they are better, longer lasting, as well as application specific materials, like those for printing dentures or temporaries, that sort of thing.
Howard: So, talk about your software because it's in the cloud, right? It's cloud software?
Gideon: We have two bits of software. One software that we have is called Preform. It's for taking ready-to-print STLs and taking them through the process of making them printable on a Form two 3D printer. That is a desktop piece of software. It's free. It's available online for anyone who wants to download it, check it out and understand the process, get estimated build times. We also have a cloud-based software called Dashboard where you can manage your 3D printers. So, if you're a dental lab, like Matt Roberts dental lab, he can see all four of his 3D printers right there, the current status, when they're going to finish printing, what jobs have been run with them, how much resin he has left. And so, that's something we're really going to try to continue building on is software that helps managing the whole 3D printing experience become a lot easier.
Howard: So, I see that you have it for Mac and Windows and I'm 55, so my generation is Microsoft and I know the millennials love Mac. What's more popular, the Mac or the Windows?
Gideon: Generally speaking, Windows is more popular although we've got a bit of a skew towards Mac at Formlabs particularly.
Howard: Yeah, well I think the biggest software companies like Dentrix owned by Schein and Eaglesoft by Patterson, those were mostly Windows plays. So, even when you see the young dentist on Dentrix or Eaglesoft, they have an iPhone and a Mac. Does it work better on Mac or Windows?
Gideon: No, it works just as well on both. So we develop both and actually Preform is one of the things where we're releasing updates every one to three months, which have better, more reliable print settings, new materials, new supports, that sort of thing. So, we work hard to make sure that both on the Mac and windows versions we’re pushing out the same level of updates regularly.
Howard: So, what's Fuse one?
Gideon: Fuse one is our SLS printer. SLS meaning Selective Laser Sintering. It's a printer that takes a bed of very thin powdered particles and solidifies them using a laser before rolling another, very thin layer of particles on top of that layer to print again. So, rather than having a liquid photopolymer like we do with the Form two, and making a solid out of that liquid, we're taking powder and then making solid out of that powder. It was announced last year and it's really the first major, low cost SLS printer. There's been a little bit of interest in the dental world and whether that might be something that could be taken advantage of, but right now, it's mostly focused on other industries. So right now in dental, we're mostly focused on stereolithography.
Howard: So what other industries are running with this? I know that you said engineers, designers, manufacturers, dentistry, healthcare, jewelry. Who's adopting this the most, which industry is running with this the most right now?
Howard: I always tried to figure out what it is, dentists' just seem to be obsessed with technology. I tell people that if they want to start a business, just build a shiny box with lights and dials on it and an antenna and at least a thousand dentists would just buy it on sight. What do you think that is?
Gideon: Well, I think dentists are actually very forward-thinking. They may spend all day processing patients and putting them through. But at the end of the day, they're very intelligent business owners who are very interested in how they can run a more effective business. I think also, I've just been very surprised at the level at which they keep in touch with technology. In our case, I think the reason why we've been growing so quickly is because we not only sell a cool box with lasers, and lights, and liquids that turn into solids, that's very exciting, but we do it in a way that just makes plain business sense. You get a fast ROI with these things. And so I think, if you can combine the attractiveness of new technology with a business model that a dentist or even a dental lab is going to know that they're going to make money off of, then you have a home run and you can go quickly. And I think that a lot of dental manufacturers know that. So a lot of dental manufacturers actually get into the space, knowing that they need to make a strong ROI argument, so that they can take that enthusiasm for technology and translate it into a win-win situation both for the manufacturer and for the dentist.
Howard: Can you go into any more specifics about the ROI, or examples or any of that?
Gideon: Yeah. So it really depends on the type business that a user particularly has and the applications that they could work with. To jump into surgical guides for example. A surgical guide printed on a Form two costs anywhere between two and $5. And you compare that typically with outsourcing to major manufacturers like SimPlant or Nobel where you'd be paying upwards of 200 to $500 for a single case. And so in those cases, you have a very obvious, quick ROI every single time you use the printer. I'm working with a couple of general dental offices who do guided surgery. We were seeing them get ROI within twelve guides. It depends on what software you pick up and your scanners and stuff like that. But if you're talking about twelve guides, that's something that is just a number of a weeks or months before people get a ROI.
Gideon: Similarly, [inaudible 32:39 first splints?], when you're talking about four to $6 per unit here, that's something that where you comparing anywhere between ninety and $150 per unit. Again, very quick ROI on that side of things. On the dental lab side of things, those unit costs are really what helped them pass on savings to the dental offices. And so, like I said, with Matt Roberts seeing a doubling in productivity with his technicians, is huge for him. Being able to reduce his case turnaround times and keep his costs in check, means that he's able to be a lot more profitable as a lab.
Gideon: Just to elaborate a little bit more on the ROI side of things. Traditionally, when you would compare that to is, in terms of past 3D printers, taking a $35,000 or even $75,000 unit and trying to run enough throughput on those, to be able to get a ROI. If you're talking about ten to twenty times the initial investment, as well as more expensive unit costs, that's where ROI a lot more difficult. For offices, it's completely out of range. And for labs, you really have to be a large lab getting a ton of throughput to be able to make even a two-year ROI case. But for labs that we're working with, they're seeing that ROI much faster and they're also seeing that they're able to scale up with a Form two when they need it. So, let's say you're a lab that's growing, you could get two printers this year and if you're doubling your production, you'd have another two printers the following year. You're not spending that money up front. You're spending it as you need it.
Howard: Back to resins. Was it hard to make a bio-compatible resin? Are resins in their nature pretty bio-compatible? Or was that a big feat to make a bio-compatible resin? Was that a natural [inaudible 34:38]? Was that the short putt or was that the fifteen foot putt?
Gideon: Maybe it was like a nine or ten-foot putt. I think it's very difficult from the materials perspective in order to make bio-compatible materials that interact with the human body in an effective fashion. When you have to also pile on getting good material properties out of that, it becomes even harder. And then finally, when you add in the regulatory process and all the burdens that are associated with being able to legally sell materials in the US and in Europe, then that really adds, maybe doubles the complexity of the situation. So, it's something that I think is a very important feat. I think that you're actually only seeing the beginning of what's possible with 3D printing polymers. The materials are going to get significantly better and the applications are going to get significantly broader as well. I think it's a very big deal that we've gotten this far, but I think there's a long way to go as well.
Howard: So, someday somewhere, do you think 3D printing could even like print a gold filling? I mean, do you think someday the printer will print with gold or heavy metals or anything like that?
Gideon: Well, actually there are metal 3D printers out there. They don't print in gold, they print in other metals and if you're a large, giant lab like Glidewell or Argen, or one of the big ones like that, you probably do have what's called the direct metal laser sintering, DMLS printer. They are printing copings, [inaudible 36:12], PFM, crowns, partial frameworks, that sort of thing. So that is possible. Those machines cost such an exorbitant amount that it's really not an accessible technology. So, I think actually what you'll see isn't different classes or materials like gold, coming into a desktop 3D printer at any particular time soon. But what I think you will see is a lot of creativity from polymer scientists, like the ones that we have here at Formlabs, to try to take 3D printable, stereolithography, photopolymers, and get the same sort of properties that you would expect out of a gold filling or another application in order to be able to direct print those. So you know, the materials aren't exactly the names that you would expect, but because of the polymer science that goes into it, you're getting the same properties that you need.
Howard: So that's why you're in Boston, right? Because of the brain trust from MIT.
Gideon: Yeah. There's a lot of...
Howard: How far are you from Cambridge with MIT.
Gideon: We are actually right on the border between Cambridge and Somerville. So it's probably about a fifteen minute walk from MIT. A lot of great team members here from there. And as well as many other schools.
Howard: How far are you from Harvard?
Gideon: Probably about a thirty minute walk. About a mile and a half, maybe.
Howard: That's one of my favorite jokes. So there's a guy at the grocery store in Cambridge and he's got twenty items, and he's in the ten items or less, and the clerk looks at him and says, "Well, you're either from Harvard and you can't count, or you're from MIT and you can't read".
Howard: They really are known as the scientist guys. Harvard is more law, philosophy, things like that, in my opinion and MIT just brutal science, isn't it?
Gideon: There's actually a lot of crossover now, but I think as a general rule that probably still applies. Though, I will say, we have what I think, is probably the best team of polymer scientists, 3D printing experts in the world. And several of them actually came from Harvard, not from MIT. Several of them also came from MIT. So, there's definitely a lot of different sources that people come from, but you'd be surprised at where some of the brightest minds can come from. I should say as well, we also get graduates from all over the US. We have some people who have joined the team from Europe. There are some really great programs that feed into this type of knowledge all over the place.
Howard: Yeah and you know, the one thing I've noticed the most in the last thirty years is that the most amazing information is almost free now. And so you could be a kid living in any country, in any village in the world and with a smartphone, have access to the most amazing information. So, it used to be an economic burden to be able to go to college and have access to so much information. But now quality information is almost zero cost.
Gideon: Yeah. And I think that gets reflected in how the team works here and how advanced you can be before you get to university. I think there's definitely a lot of knowledge that people are bringing from their programs and stuff. But certainly I think that one thing particularly impressive about the team here, is not just their knowledge, but how they learn in their ability to learn. There's 3D printing, high accuracy, bio-compatible, very good mechanical property parts, is a multi-dimensional problem. It involves making really great hardware, it involves making really great software, firmware. It involves a lot of chemical engineering that's very complex. And so, what's really exciting about being at Formlabs is, seeing all of the different minds that come together here to solve solutions in really creative ways. There's a number of different things that come up that sometimes, you get a solution from a material scientist and sometimes you get a solution that's coming from more of a hardware side. And that's why we really are proud of the fact that we can offer not just the printer, but also the materials and all the accessories you need to print.
Howard: So, software is what the human reacts with and the firmware is what the machine runs on?
Gideon: That's right.
Howard: I got to mention jewelry because as dentists we all made gold crowns and we all made all that stuff in labs. And I can't tell you how many dentists I know made their own wedding ring. Even me, one of the first things I ever made was, when I started learning how to do all that stuff, a scorpion had died. And so I cast that, it was really cool. So, about a two inch long scorpion, made this really cool necklace and it was really cool. Who ended up stealing that? Zach. Zach took that for me and then left it at a friend's house probably. But anyway, so what jewelry applications are you doing?
Speaker 3: So jewelry is a great space for us. We make a really high definition, high resolution printer so you can get really fine parts out of it. Jewelry is really focused on taking our castable resin and printing rings, or earrings or other types of parts, that you could also potentially cast that scorpion. So, they really primarily use both our standard resins to print mock-ups before they go to cast, as well as our castable resin to actually cast those. And it's funny that you mentioned that you know a dozen dental technicians that are particularly interested in this because we have an engineer on the team here who has decades of experience as a technician and he's added a lot of knowledge on the jewelry side of things for us as well.
Howard: Yeah, it's the same processes. I've always thought it was funny, whenever you talk to all these people that are huge into buying gold, I never got to because if the whole calamity of the economy happens that they're always worried about, what are you going to do with a bunch of gold bars. I always said the only thing it's good for is, dental crowns and jewelry. It has no utility. I'd rather have a thousand pounds of rice and potatoes, than a big stack of gold bars. So, what questions was I not smart enough to ask you?
Gideon: That's a good one. I think we covered a lot of it. I think there's a lot of exciting applications available for people. One thing that people might be very interested in is, how to really get started in this space? And to that, I would really say that the successful pathway that we see people taking, it follows a couple of steps. So first of all, if anyone's interested who's listening to this, there's casts right here in seeing a 3D printed part. We have a sample of parts that are available on our website. You can request a surgical guide and you can request a dental model, and get one sent out to you. That's a great way of seeing, touching and feeling what the technology actually looks like. Well, what we recommend and what we see people do who are successful in adopting this technology is, they work with our team to understand how they can take advantage of it, identifying a clear application that would be a home run for them. And then they just get a printer. They start testing that before they put that on production for maybe a month. And then they start scaling up from there. So, I would say that it's a technology that's really approachable now and something that is worth testing and scaling up.
Howard: So they should go to Formlabs.com?
Gideon: That's right. There's a lot of information on Formlabs.com. There's a dental materials page, a dental industry page, and then if you get in touch with us or one of our partners, they'll have tons of information to share on specific applications. The other thing I'd say is, we work very closely with [inaudible 44:34} dental conditions and [inaudible 44:34} dental labs to write white papers, applications, guides, and we're working on new ,video content in the future. So we have some educational resources out there including webinars that people should check out and see. We're all about helping people adopt digital dentistry. We'd love to see people adopt our printer in particular, but we know it's a new space and so we'd love it if people could come in and see our resources and learn alongside us.
Howard: So your buddy, Doc Holliday in Honolulu, Hawaii, we went to the same school, UMKC. I graduated, I'm unfortunately much older, he was 2004, I was 1987. But why he doesn't have a dental school. So they had a contract with Missouri. I think Missouri took seven dentists a year from Hawaii, and then another seven from New Mexico, and then thirty from Kansas. I was part of the Kansas deal, but UMKC was... So Missouri, Kansas, New Mexico and Hawaii. So every class had people from all four of those states. It was so fun. But yeah, I'd like to get him on there because I would love to have an orthodontist to talk about what he's doing at that. Man, you are so knowledgeable. So, where can they find those webinars?
Gideon: So if you just Google 'Formlabs webinar', you'll find a couple of different ones. We've run maybe five or so dental ones in the past six months. So we've got one from a dental office perspective, by Dr Daniel Whitley, as well as Dr Ken Kim. We had Dr Lee Carp on to tell us about how to take advantage of it and the dental lab, as well as one particularly for Cerec users. So yeah, there's a lot of content on there. We have all the links to our webinars on our website. They're also searchable on Google. I would highly encourage people to take a look there. Find the one that lines up with the topic of their interest and take a peek.
Howard: How long are these webinars?
Gideon: Generally, the webinars are forty-five minutes to seventy-five minutes. So roundabout an hour. And generally we try to go through understanding of 3D printing as a whole, what's changed about it that makes it something that's being taken advantage of, by dental users all over the world. And then how to particularly take advantage of it yourself, as well as how to get started with a particular application. So it will cover the basics as a whole, and then we'll also go through like, the workflow steps for a surgical guide to really understand it, more on hands-on basis, at least as far as you can get on a computer screen.
Howard: You really have a neat website. I mean, it's a very, very extensive, very well done website. So congratulations on that. So and then on Twitter, you're @Formlabs.com, so I'll retweet your last one. Oh, I really enjoyed that article. I thought the neatest thing is it has nothing to do with dentistry, your last tweet, well, it's your pin tweet. For over a century, the world's largest lens was a lighthouse on Holoholo, Hawaii. This month, the title transferred to a new lens, a ten by twelve foot Fresnel lens, made of 3D printed tiles designed by you, Formlabs. So, or did you hear about. So can you say anything about that?
Gideon: Yeah. So the LENS Project was a really exciting one. It was in Times Square for all of February, so people could come and stand at it and look at it and take pictures with it. It was a huge effort by a couple of really great people here, designed by Aranda Lasch and Marcelo Coelho, but a huge team of people here printed those on a set of fifty different printers, worked really hard to actually assemble them and bring it together in Times Square. It was a really great project, a really big moment for the company to have that much exposure. And so, it's definitely something we're very excited about.
Howard: So what's it going to be used for?
Gideon: It was really only used for the month. It was kind of like a public art exhibit. It's for now lens, so it diffuses light which is very useful, for example, for a light house. But, in the case of this for now lens, there was a heart cut in the center. So it was kind of valentine's themed, people were taking selfies in the center. If you kind of took a further look back from it, it would refract the lights all from around Times Square and be extremely impressive.
Howard: Yeah, well I just retweeted it, so go to @HowardFarran or go to @Formlabs, but the YouTube video was amazing. I mean it was just a really cool video. Well man, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. Was there anything else you wanted to say?
Gideon: Thank you for the opportunity to talk. I really enjoyed the conversation and I'm really excited to continue learning more about dental and continue growing with everyone in the space.
Howard: Well, get on Dentaltown and tell them what you know, because you are a wealth of information and we have fifty different forums, root canals, fillings, crowns. But this is a very active section of the forums because it's all new. But, we'll get this podcast out, we'll post it on the forums and I hope you share with all the townies, everything you know.
Gideon: Absolutely. Thanks again for the opportunity to talk. I really enjoyed.
Howard: The honor was all mine and thank you Ryan.