Twenty-three-year-old Amos Dudley is a digital design student in New Jersey. He went viral last week after coming up with a unique way to save some cash — by 3D printing his own braces.
Clear orthodontic aligners made from a mold of your own teeth can run thousands of dollars, but Dudley managed to create his own for less than $60 USD using a 3D printer.
Dudley had braces when he was younger but didn’t keep up with them, leaving him with a slightly crooked smile in his twenties. As a young student, he couldn’t afford to go to the orthodontist and get another custom pair, so he decided to use with the tools he had on hand. As a design student — that meant using state-of-the-art digital fabrication tools like a 3D printer.
Despite the fact that Dudley has no professional orthodontic experience whatsoever, the braces appear to be working. This image shows the difference after 16 weeks of wearing the custom braces:
Dudley came up with the idea to create his own braces after researching aligners online. He saw in close up images that they had the signs of 3D-printed layer striations, similar to the ones he’d seen on his own creations at school.
Dudley wrote on his blog, "What is to stop someone, who has access to a 3D printer, from making their own orthodontic aligners? Turns out, not much!”
He then dug into researching the orthodontic process, and took a mould of his teeth with alginate powder. He then filed it with PermaStone to set. Once he scanned the cast, he was able to use software to model how his teeth could progress in becoming straighter.
The whole process was actually pretty complex— Dudley had to identify his teeth as separate objects in the model and create a route for them to travel that avoided potential intersections with each other.
"Then it was just a matter of animating them into their correct positions," he writes. "I measured the total distance of travel, and divided it by the maximum recommended distance a tooth can travel per aligner. Each frame of animation was baked into a new STL model.”
He used a Stratasys Dimension 1200es 3D printer to do the job, available to him at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He printed out 12 models and created plastic aligners to go over top of them, made from special dental plastic he found on eBay.
He’s been wearing them for 16 weeks so far.
"As far as I know, I’m the first person to have tried DIY-ing plastic aligners. They’re much more comfortable than braces, and fit my teeth quite well. 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!" he writes. "Most importantly, I feel like I can freely smile again.”
Since going viral, Dudley has been approached by many asking him to help make their orthodontic care more affordable, but he’s erring on the side of caution. He commented on his blog post, “Just want to clarify, again, I won't be making retainers/aligners for people (even if you offer money). I've thought about the possibility, and decided it's not a good idea for a large number of reasons. Sorry!”
Image Credits: Science Alert