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30 Nov 2023 | eLABORATE

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Touring HeyGears HQ

By Terry Whitty

With the buzz words 3D printing, AI and automation being thrown around in dentistry like pizza dough at Dominos™ on a Saturday night, you could be excused for feeling left behind as everything seems to be moving at light speed. Things are indeed moving fast and without doubt the next big thing in 3D printing is Automation. This is where the machines are capable of taking over a lot of the tasks that we would normally do manually–Taking builds off the machines, washing and post processing for example. A few companies are taking the lead with this and it’s interesting times ahead.

Recently I was invited to Guangzhou, China to the HeyGears HQ and 3D printing facility. This is an amazing place where the future is being realised now. HeyGears was founded in 2015 Peiyan Gui as its CEO and now employs over 800 people worldwide. They focus on a wide variety of 3D printing applications such as audiology, dentistry, robotics, prosthetics and other medical applications as well as rapid prototyping and consumer 3D printing machines and supplies. While there are a plethora of 3D printer manufacturers and more coming out of the woodwork everyday, if you look a little deeper, you will see this company has already kicked a few goals without too much brouhaha.

Firstly, they released their printer “HiVE” module combination where the printer prints a series of models and then a robotic system slices the models from the build plate and drops them into a receptacle. The printer is then freed up to automatically go ahead and print the next batch of models. This was a groundbreaking system and to see it in the flesh at HeyGears was definitely an interesting encounter. In real life it’s a big unit and heavy, so getting one upstairs may be a challenge. Hence, enter the new UltraCraft A3D automatic All-in-one printer. This machine is amazing; with a fairly small footprint, this automated 3D printer is capable of 24/7 nonstop production. Provided you have the need for a high volume printing solution, one look at the A3D and you’re sold. It’s suitable for any dental applications down to 50 microns so this is the ideal workhorse that larger labs now need.

The machine will take 3 litres of resin at a time and automatically refill the machine; if you want completely autonomous operation, there is an auto bulk resin filling unit available. So you can print and print and print all day and all night.

Supporting this and soon to be available is an automated wash station. This is for the power user indeed and it’s a very interesting approach to automated post-processing. Although not officially released yet, it won’t be long until we see this available too.

Walking through the HeyGears centre, there were many amazing things on display, lots to look at and lots to touch and feel. I even saw a brace for a chicken that had a broken leg... 3D printed... amazing!

The real surprise, however, was the printing centre where there were 100+ 3D printers in a specially lit room printing away all-day-all-night. It was surreal and reminded me of a science fiction movie– you had to see it to appreciate it.

HeyGears is definitely a company to watch, they have Automation and AI in their sights and much is available now.

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