3-D Print Your Own Braces?

On Fox News, we read:

Amos Dudley wears his skills in his smile.

The digital design major has been straightening his top teeth for the past 16 weeks using clear braces he made himself.

“I’m still wearing the last one,” Dudley told CNNMoney on Tuesday.

“The last one” refers to the twelfth and final straightening tray in his self-designed treatment…

Name brand options for clear braces can cost up to $8,000, according to companies like Invisalign, Damon, and ClearCorrect. But the 24-year-old wanted to save money, so he found a way to manufacture his own for less than $60.

…He used NJIT’s equipment to scan and print models of his teeth, and mold non-toxic plastic around them to form the set of 12 clear braces.

Dudley determined out how far he needed to move his teeth to correct the misalignment problems. Then divided it by the maximum recommended distance a tooth should travel to determine the design for each alignment tray. Orthodontists use a similar process.

“It was very obvious which tooth [the tray] was putting pressure on,” he said. “I was sort of worried about accumulated error, but that wasn’t the case so that was a pretty glorious moment.”

Simply incredible. Braces cost thousands upon thousands of dollars in equipment and labor costs. As any family (like my own) who has put braces on multiple children knows, it is a hefty cost.

Not everyone has the kind of smarts needed to calculate and implement orthodontic work of their own design. But still, consider the implications: When all was said and done, the student had spent approximately $60. If we consider a customer who pays a technician to take a mold of their teeth, calculate a design, then print the braces, I’d imagine we’re still talking a cost far less than thousands of dollars.

One size does not fit all. This solution currently only works for people who need small tooth movement. Anything that requires surgery on the mouth is clearly still untouchable, and will probably stay that way until the robot revolution. But for people who just want to correct a few misaligned teeth, this presents an incredible opportunity.

More exciting news on the 3-D Printed Front: a lab at MIT has created a printer that can use up to 10 different materials during a printing process in order to create ready-to-use household objects. Read more about it here.

In the past, 3-D printers have been restricted to one material, usually plastic, during printing. This restricted what they were capable of producing, as there is only so much you can do with a hunk of solid plastic. With this new addition from MIT, now they really can create useful objects with the press of a button.

It is slow. Printing one car tire took the machine nearly 2 days to complete. But Moore’s Law will do it’s work. This technology will improve.


The implications of this on governments around the world are obvious: it is going to undermine central planning on a grand scale. When people can start printing household goods out of their own basements, how is this going to affect tax collection? How is this going to affect patent law? Currently, these things are mostly enforced at the retail level. Governments will have to completely overhaul regulation related to manufacturing and retail sales. And what about tariffs? It is already nearly impossible for the US government to enforce tariffs against foreign companies selling digital products downloaded by users in the USA. When foreign companies provide digital 3-D printable blueprints for products that would usually be slapped with a tariff at the border, how will the US government defend their own tariff law?

What will this do to gun control? People will be able to print their own weapons. Every man a gunsmith, every house an armory. This is going to smash gun control.

The Feds will probably try to clamp down on the source: the materials needed for 3-D printing. But the possibilities afforded by 3-D printing are too incredible. The public will not stand for it if the government tries to impose a blockade on materials. This will create a thriving black market.

The government may try to institute a licensing system, where a license is required to own an operate a 3-D printer of a certain size. They would never be able to efficiently enforce this. This would require surveillance of every household in America. They will never have the money to do this. This might work in North Korea. But in America? Fat chance. This regulation would not even work in Communist China.

The money is the bottom line. As 3-D printing decentralizes manufacturing, bureaucrats and politicians will have to expend more money to monitor the processes if they want to keep up. They are going to get less for their buck as time goes on, which is good for liberty. Let freedom ring.

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