University of Louisville Launches 3-D Printing Lab

Dentistry Today


Users can design and manufacture accurate lifelike resin models of jawbones, parts of faces, and even entire skulls with the technologies available at the University of Louisville (UofL) School of Dentistry’s new 3D Virtual Print Lab. With these tools, doctors then can design surgical guides and plan surgeries.

The Division of Radiology and Imaging Science (RIS) and the Department of Oral Health and Rehabilitation (OHR) launched the lab as a joint initiative with the university’s Additive Manufacturing Competency Center and JB Speed School of Engineering. Researchers from these areas are evaluating new printers, resins, and software for customized patient care.

“We have 3 Form 2 printers (Formlabs) in our lab and access to a variety of 3-D printers at UofL’s Rapid Prototyping Center, with an average turnaround time of just a few hours depending on the complexity of the model or guide,” said Gerald T. Grant, DMD, MS, professor and interim chair of OHR. “These models and guides allow for better predictability of surgical procedures from facial reconstruction to dental implant placement.”

Combining the expertise of engineers, prosthodontists, and radiologists is “a recipe for innovation in the area of medical modeling and design,” Grant further notes.

Additionally, the university is establishing a digital healthcare innovation center where UofL experts will be available to develop research and consultation for startup and existing commercial properties; train dentists and physicians to use in-house printers and medical models; and explore biocompatible resins using materials like hemp oils, soybean, and synthetic bone.

Alon with the 3D Virtual Print Lab, the School of Dentistry has added a facial imaging system, the 3dMD Temporal Face, thanks in part to funding from Straumann. Using multiple cameras in the 3-D photographic suite, the technology captures 10 frames per second for several minutes at high resolution and automatically generates a continuous moving 3-D image. This unique system captures a patient’s facial movement, according to Grant, much like video except with still images, and can be measured and registered to other software.    

“It will be the only system of its kind in Kentucky and is applicable to use with oral-maxillofacial surgery and reconstruction, ENT, and neurosurgical analysis for pre- and post-surgical intervention and full-mouth dental reconstructions,” Grant said.

Next spring, a digital clinic for DMD students will open, complete with intraoral scanners, CAD/CAM, and a milling station. It will be designed to give students greater access to practice and develop skills they already are learning through the UofL digital dentistry curriculum.

The intraoral scanners have replaced traditional dental impressions needed for everything from crowns to orthodontic treatment. The CAD/CAM software will enable students to virtually design, form, and shape a dental restoration. Students then will learn to use the milling station to create everything from crowns to veneers and fixed bridges.

Through work with internationally recognized prosthodontic faculty, students also will be able to virtually plan and place dental implants. Students will have access to Simplant from Dentsply Implants as well, implant planning software designed to provide accurate and predictable implant treatment.

The software allows the school to expand the implant curriculum for DMD students and leverages imaging from CBCT, intraoral scanners, and laboratory scanners to guide implant planning from drilling to implant placement.

Furthermore, file sharing is critical to using 3-D imagery throughout a healthcare facility, prompting the School of Dentistry to purchase INFINITT, a web-based 3-D digital data system from INFINITT North America. The university calls it the gold standard for sharing 3-D radiographic data between clinicians and locations. 

“The ability of this system to store 3-D information and interact with images at the chair-side will give our clinicians unsurpassed access and provide our students an unsurpassed educational experience,” said William C. Scarfe, BDS, MS, professor and director of RIS and the Department of Surgical and Hospital Dentistry. 

Dental school radiologists worked with INFINITT engineers to build a system specific to the needs of the School of Dentistry, including a training template for students and residents on CBCT interpretation. 

“While any dentist can buy a scanner and take an image, our graduates will be among the few who are trained to read the images for specific cases, which will translate to improved diagnosis and efficient clinical outcome,” said Bruno Azevedo, DDS, MS, assistant professor at RIS and lead clinician for the INFINITT project. 

School-wide implementation of the file sharing software is underway, and endodontic residents are the first to pilot the school’s new educational imaging template.

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