Derby Dental Quickly Scales to Meet Thermoforming Customer Needs

Derby Dental, one of the largest family-run dental labs in the U.S., has a vast product portfolio including fixed and removable prosthetics, support, and clear sequential aligners. In the spring of 2018, they added a new aligner division: Smile Shapers®. With a sharp focus on orthodontic aligners, Smile Shapers works with dental labs that are new to the clear aligner market and looking to quickly grow in the category by offering Smile Shapers Clear Aligners to their customers. Derby Dental invested in Carbon L1 printers to produce tens of thousands of printed models for thermoforming and integrated a scalable solvent-free post-processing solution into their production workflows. Read more to find out why Derby Dental Lab chose Carbon’s complete digital dental solution, and why they anticipate incredible success and growth with thermoforming clear aligners.


To succeed in the thermoforming category, Derby Dental Lab was focused on printing 320 models per 10-hour day (between 5,000 and 6,500 models per month), making production uptime a priority.

Previously, Derby Dental Lab found their manufacturing tools lacked reliability and resorted to purchasing redundant equipment to guarantee throughput. This created new problems, as the different tools created high variability and frequently lacked product quality. 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, Derby Dental could potentially lose recurring business with poor quality, making this approach less than ideal.


By moving production to the L1 printer, Derby Dental Lab discovered a new level of reliability, increasing production by 60% with the improved uptime while enjoying speed, accuracy, quality, and simplicity of digital workflows from Carbon. Derby Dental has received positive customer feedback regarding the aligner quality and consistency, contributing to the lab’s goal of offering superior products and innovative solutions. Most importantly, Derby Dental was able to successfully print large volumes of high-quality models with clinically acceptable accuracy.



As their model throughput rapidly increased, optimizing post-processing also became a priority. Smile Shapers employees traditionally post-processed models using manual methods, which included placing the build platform onto a foiled-lined tray to capture uncured resin, cleaning models with isopropyl alcohol in an orbital shaker in two separate cycles, and drying models using low air pressure flow. The process required four separate steps and a total of 18 minutes. Increasing their throughput required simplifying and streamlining cleaning.


Smile Shapers began using the Carbon unique solvent-free post-processing solution. This novel approach to post-processing uses centrifugal force to remove excess resin and ensure parts are ready for final curing. Using this solution, they have been able to reduce cycle times from 18 minutes to 7 minutes, saving 15 hours per week.



Derby Dental’s goal was not just to meet their production targets but to use Carbon as a platform for growing their business. Business growth required a platform that would scale with them, that was modular and dependable as their ambitions changed. A unique part of this process was offered by the Carbon subscription model, which is based on creating a long-term partnership instead of a one-time transaction (Figure 1). This agreement enables Carbon to provide partners like Derby Dental with innovative equipment and materials that allow for both immediate and long-term success.


Carbon Subscription Model Figure 1: The Carbon Subscription Model


Each step of Derby Dental’s success created more of the types of problems companies love to have: how do you grow production to meet demand? With the reliability of the L1 printer, Derby Dental could efficiently scale post-processing. With the solvent-free solution, Derby Dental’s production exceeded expectations so they quickly required additional L1 printers to keep up with customer orders. With Carbon’s subscription-based business model, the lab could quickly launch, and scale seamlessly with new production tools that effortlessly met their customer’s quality and accuracy 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 WindlowSmile Shapers, Director of Business Development



Derby Dental Lab’s venture into thermoforming was an 18-month process that culminated with them receiving FDA clearance and 510k approvals for their thermoforming business using Carbon technology. Now, Derby Dental is continuing to adjust its printing strategy and is gaining a greater return on investment. When they first started printing Carbon models, they printed solid models that required about 50 minutes to print eight full arch models. With the L1, they can now print 28 solid models in 40 minutes or less. In a ten-hour shift, Derby Dental Lab can produce 60% more models than before, allowing them to support the distribution of their Smile Shapers aligners across labs in the U.S. and Canada.


Are you interested in growing in the clear aligner market? Contact the Carbon Dental Team at for a no-obligation consultation.