Mechanical and geometric properties of thermoformed and 3D printed clear dental aligners


      • Successful modeling and 3D printing of clear dental aligners.
      • Signify the effects of postcuring 3D printed clear dental aligners.
      • Higher compression strength of 3D printed than thermoformed clear dental aligners.
      • Greater geometric accuracy of 3D printed than thermoformed clear dental aligners.
      • Lesser processing costs of 3D printed than thermoformed clear dental aligners.


      The aim of this research was to compare compressive mechanical properties and geometric inaccuracies between conventionally manufactured thermoformed Duran clear dental aligners and 3D printed Dental Long Term (LT) resin-based clear aligners using 3D modeling and printing techniques.


      Impressions of the patient's dentition were scanned and using 3D modeling software, dental models were designed and 3D printed. These printed models then underwent vacuum thermoforming to thermoform a clear Duran thermoplastic sheet of 0.75-mm thickness into clear dental aligners of the same thickness of 0.75 mm. For the same dental model, aligners were also designed and 3D printed to 0.75-mm thickness creating biocompatible clear dental aligners using Dental LT resin utilizing a Formlabs 3D printing machine for direct usage by the patients. Five observers calculated teeth height for both types of aligners for evaluation of geometric deviations. Both types of aligners were subjected to compression loading of 1000 N to evaluate their load vs displacement behavior.


      3D printed cured clear dental aligners were found to be geometrically more accurate with an average relative difference in tooth height of 2.55% in comparison with thermoformed aligners (4.41%). Low standard deviations (0.03-0.09 mm) were observed for tooth height measurements taken by all the observers for both types of aligners. 3D printed aligners could resist a maximum load of nearly 662 N for a low displacement of 2.93 mm; whereas, thermoformed aligners could resist a load on only 105 N for 2.93-mm displacement. Thermoformed aligners deformed plastically and irreversibly for large displacements; whereas, 3D printed aligners deformed elastically with reversibility for lower displacements.


      3D printed and suitably cured Dental LT resin-based clear dental aligners are suggested to be more suitable for patient use as they are geometrically more accurate; this presents an opportunity to make processing time savings while ensuring an aligner is mechanically stronger and elastic in comparison with the conventionally produced thermoplastic-based thermoformed clear dental aligners.
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