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Science

3D printing could be the future of false teeth

Normal false teeth on the NHS are made of either synthetic resin or metal. But Professor Andreas Herrmann and his fellow colleagues of the University of Groningen in The Netherlands have managed to pioneer false teeth production in a way that is far from normal – through 3D printing. This new variety of tooth is made of a plastic that acts against the growth of microbes, meaning not that only are these teeth are fit for purpose, they also help the fight against bacteria. Use of positively charged ammonium salts counteract the negatively charged bacterial membranes. Hermann explains, “The material can kill bacteria on contact, but on the other hand it is not harmful to human cells.”

3D printing has its origins from back in the 1980s with the earliest 3D printing technologies being known as Rapid Prototyping technologies. There was an unsuccessful patent application for the technology in 1980 but it wasn’t until 1986 that the first patent was successfully issued to the American Charles ‘Chuck’ Hull. He is today acknowledged as the father of 3D printing for his pioneering of stereolithography apparatus and was last year inducted into The National Inventors Hall of Fame, which also features Thomas Edison and The Wright Brothers. This demonstrates the prominence that 3D printing has nowadays.

Today, 3D printing is used for a number of reasons. It has been used by companies such as General Motors and Ford for making vehicle parts and on a bigger scale and used by NASA for their rocket engine injector. But Hermann’s idea isn’t the first to use the printing to assist the human body. It has been used to produce limbs for the disabled, aid the senses of the visually or aurally impaired and even produce internal organs designed for an individual’s body.

3D printing is not without its critics. High-tech gunsmith group Defense Distributed managed to produce a gun called the ‘Liberator’. 15 of its 16 parts of can be produced out of plastic by 3D printers, with company associate Cody Wilson believing to be evidence of the US Government’s inability to enforce gun control. This was criticised by New South Wales Police commissioner Andrew Schipione, who told The Telegraph a few years ago: “The catastrophic failure comes about because there are no standards around these weapons.” The printing of false teeth is less dangerous, but Schipione probably echoes the thoughts of many when it comes to technology like this. Innovations can be a great thing, as long as they are fully understood by the public.

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