Derby Dental Quickly Scales to Meet Thermoforming Customer Needs

Derby Dental Laboratory (lab) was founded in 1986 with the goal of creating an extraordinary client experience by providing superior products, innovative solutions, and personalized service. The lab, one of the largest family run dental labs in the U.S., operates from a 25,000 square foot facility in Louisville, Kentucky and has over 100 employees. Their product portfolio includes fixed and removable prosthetics, support, and clear sequential aligners.

In the spring of 2018, Derby Dental Lab added their aligner division, Smile Shapers®, which works with dental labs new to the clear aligner market that are looking to quickly grow in the category. With a sharp focus on orthodontic aligners and partnering with dental labs to be able to offer the Smile Shapers Clear Aligners to their customers, Derby Dental Lab invested in one Carbon M2 printer to produce tens of thousands of printed models for thermoforming. Read more to find out why Derby Dental Lab chose Carbon’s complete 3D Manufacturing dental solution, and why they anticipate incredible success and growth with thermoforming clear aligners.


To succeed in the thermoforming category, Derby Dental Lab is focusing on printing 320 models per 10-hour day or between 5,000 and 6,500 models per month, which is why they needed a technology that produces models reliably without downtime. Previously, Derby Dental Lab bought redundant equipment to make up for equipment downtime, with an end goal of keeping the lab running smoothly and preventing clients and staff from becoming frustrated.



Having to purchase or lease redundant equipment is a cost all labs strive to avoid. Derby Dental Lab accomplished this by partnering with Carbon. Now, lab staff also do not worry about downtime and enjoy the benefits of speed, accuracy, equipment quality, ease of use, and simple clean up.

The estimated cost of poor product quality is three times the cost of an individual dental model due to the cost of repeat work to fix quality issues, opportunity costs associated with employee time and equipment resources, and shipping cost. Additionally, loss of recurring business is also a risk associated with poor quality. Employees have also received positive customer feedback regarding the aligner quality and consistency, which supports the lab’s goal of offering superior products and innovative solutions.

Although Derby Dental Lab has experienced multiple benefits from Carbon’s solution, the most significant benefit is printing large numbers of quality, accurate models.

The lab is continuing to adjust their printing strategy and is gaining greater return on investment. When they first started printing Carbon models, they printed solid models which required about 50 minutes to print eight full arch models. They transitioned to hollow models and now print eight full arch models in less than 30 minutes. In a ten-hour shift, Derby Dental Lab can produce 60% more models. Derby Dental Lab is also excited about the opportunity to continue to efficiently print models and finish aligners as more cases come in.


Subscription Model

A unique aspect of Carbon’s business approach is a subscription model, which is based on creating the experience of a long-term partnership instead of a one-time transaction. Once a partner joins the Carbon family, they are assigned an account manager. Derby Dental Lab worked with their account manager to quickly accommodate their need for another M2 printer when they experienced higher model throughput volumes.

Derby Dental Lab’s venture into thermoforming was an 18-month process that culminated with them receiving FDA and 510k approvals for their thermoforming business using Carbon’s technology. The required commitment was not something that was taken lightly, which is one reason it was important to partner with a company that provides innovative equipment and materials that allow for immediate and long-term success. Partnering with Carbon supported Derby Dental Lab’s efforts and allowed the lab to quickly launch and scale accordingly to meet their customer’s needs.



The subscription model is beneficial as we are able to make payments over time versus one large capital investment. This enables us to keep costs down and allows for the flexibility to add more printers as the division grows.

Nick Windlow

Director of Business Development, Smile Shapers


Future Goals

Derby Dental Lab is looking to continue to grow their thermoforming business by utilizing the 60% improvement in throughput they have experienced to support distribution of their Smile Shapers aligners across labs in the U.S. and Canada. Thermoforming will continue to shape the dental industry over the next few years. Are you ready to gain more market share working with a partner like Carbon that offers excellent customer service, ROI, and a diverse portfolio of validated materials on the highly reliable M2 printer? Contact the Carbon Dental Team at