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HP-3D-printing-driven SmileDirect Club shuts down

That means there could be as many as 100 MJF systems crowding the second hand market soon

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SmileDirectClub, one of the companies that rode the “invisible aligner craze” expecting to drive millions in revenues is shutting down, just months after the struggling teeth-straightening company filed for bankruptcy protection. Readers of this website may be familiar with the SmileDirectClub as it once was a shining example of mass customization efforts via 3D printing, in particular HP’s MJF technology, which the company used to produce molds for custom invisible aligners, in a factory housing as many as 100 3D printers at its peak.

According to a release by the Associated Press, SmileDirectClub made the “incredibly difficult decision to wind down its global operations, effective immediately.” That leaves existing customers in limbo. SmileDirectClub’s aligner treatment through its telehealth platform is no longer available, the Nashville, Tennessee, company said, while urging consumers to consult their local dentist for further treatment. Customer-care support has also ceased.

Customer orders that haven’t shipped yet have been canceled and “Lifetime Smile Guarantee” no longer exists, the company said. SmileDirectClub apologized for the inconvenience and said additional information about refund requests will arrive “once the bankruptcy process determines next steps and additional measures customers can take.”

HP 3D printing driven SmileDirect Club shuts down, and that means there could be as many as 100 MJF systems crowding the second hand market
SmileDirectClub’s facility runs several HP MJF 3D printers

According to Forbes, the once high-flying SmileDirectClub was valued at $8.9 billion just 4 years ago. The publicly traded company, which filed for bankruptcy in late September, had in recent days been negotiating a deal for its founders to provide fresh capital and buy SmileDirectClub out of Chapter 11. But the company failed to get its most important lender and other creditors on board, dooming the effort, attorney Spencer Winters said in bankruptcy court Friday.

In September, SmileDirectClub began a process to implement a comprehensive recapitalization transaction. The additional capital and stronger financial position from this recapitalization was intended to bolster the Company’s balance sheet and fuel growth initiatives to allow SmileDirectClub to thrive. The company had sought to recapitalize through a transaction where its founders committed to invest at least $20 million to bolster the Company’s balance sheet and to protect its near- and long-term financial health. Up to $60 million of additional capital is available upon satisfaction of certain conditions, including the favorable conclusion of a marketing process. To effectuate the transaction, SmileDirectClub voluntarily filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas.

HP 3D printing driven SmileDirect Club shuts down, and that means there could be as many as 100 MJF systems crowding the second hand market

SmileDirectClub began building its 3D printing factory in 2019 with 50 MJF systems from HP, building up the capacity to produce over 50,000 unique mouth molds a day and nearly 20 million in the next 12 months. While this type of indirect additive production (via 3D printed molds and casts) has proven to be feasible and cost-effective across many applications, it seems unable to effectively cater to such large production runs. In addition, even as multiple forecasts continue to promise steady growth, the market for clear aligners has become saturated with many different offers populating the market, making it an extremely competitive scenario.

The shutdown of SmileDirectClub is likely to have significant implications on the additive manufacturing industry as a whole, with as many as 100 HP systems likely flooding the secondhand market soon. In a relatively small industrial segment as polymer 3D printing still is today, this is going to have a significant impact but not necessarily in a negative way. On the one hand, there may be slightly lower demand for new MJF systems (however it should be considered many of SmileDirectClub’s machines were older 4200 series) on the other there may be an uptick in adoption of AM as more AM service providers will get access to powerful production systems at a significantly reduced hardware cost.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites VoxelMatters.com and Replicatore.it, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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