The future of 4D printing in orthodontics

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The future of 4D printing in orthodontics


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DT Pakistan
Dr Rimsha Qasim

Dr Rimsha Qasim

Tue. 28 December 2021


What if a flat slat will bend into another object by just adding water or light to it? 4D printing is inducing growth in the industrial and the health sector.


The shift to 4D from 3D in orthodontics

The field of orthodontics is evolving rapidly. The 3D technology created waves when Invisalign was introduced. Clear aligners employ high-end 3D technology from treatment planning to design and printing through thermoforming plastic materials. Though the technology is brilliant, it has been significantly commercialised, and plastic waste is also ignored. Considering how roughly 40 pieces of 3D models are made for every client only to be dumped into the ocean, ethical responsibility should be acknowledged later. It gave rise to a new technology known as 4D printing.

What is 4D printing?

4D printing is a technology in which the idea of shape memory is utilised. This technology is derived from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) self-assembly lab project.

Still, the question arises that how is the 4th dimension added to the 3rd? As 3D printing is a static procedure, 4D printing is dynamic. The stimulus to induce such dynamic change can be temperature, moisture, or any kinetic charge that produces movement in the 3D model. 4D models are just 3D models transforming over time. Hence, the 4th dimension is time.

Role of smart materials in 4D

Smart materials such as polymers and hydrogels are incorporated to bring about the change of shape. Its use in Orthodontics will be groundbreaking. The possibility of producing self-straining wires or self-folding removable can make the appliances undergo continuous movement resulting in the desired positioning and aligning of teeth.

4D printing reduces waste

Furthermore, this technology can reduce patient costs and bring down material waste. The future is recycling, and newer innovations are following this very concept. The way Nitinol wires revolutionised fixed brackets and 4D printing can bring about significant changes in orthodontics. Moreover, 4D printing has been proved efficient in lab and clinical trials.

A promising technology

The applications and the potential of this technology are innumerable and promising. Further research and trials can help shape the future of 4D technology. The introduction of this technology can utilise the systems of CAD/CAM and digital workflows in clinics. Just like 3D printing transformed traditional manufacturing, 4D printing can further grow the industrial complex and the health sector.

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