Additive manufacturing and 3D printing promise to simplify manufacturing, reduce inventories, and streamline operations. But, to determine when and how to apply additive manufacturing, organizations need a decision model that assesses it’s market strategy, supply chain performance, and complexity.
Long before manufacturers talked about custom manufacturing and batch runs of one, there was orthodontics. Orthodontics treatments are customized by nature. Orthodontists meet one-on-one with every patient to take X-rays and make molds of their teeth and then create a unique treatment plan to correct a patient’s misalignments. That custom approach spawned an industry of decentralized dentists, orthodontists, and dental laboratories who each have a role in the treatment plan. Think of it as a complex and expensive dental supply chain. For a long time, the question was: Well, what is the alternative?
Enter Align Technology, Inc., a global medical device company that disrupted the rules of the orthodontics game. Align Technology produces clear aligners—sold under the Invisalign brand—as a malocclusion treatment. Made of a nearly transparent plastic material, clear aligners work on the same principle as metal braces: They put soft pressure on individual teeth to move the denture into the desired position. However, instead of adjusting metal arch wires and brackets throughout the treatment, Align Technology provides a customized, transparent plastic rack for each phase of the plan. Clear aligners have the added benefit of being much more discrete than a mouth full of metal.