Melotte, the small Limburg-based firm which pioneered 3D printed sets of dentures, bridges and crowns, will represent Belgium at the most prestigious award ceremony for sustainability, the American Energy Globe Award in New York.
3D printing involves the so-called layer upon layer injection of materials such as plastic and metal to create a three-dimensional object.
This technique reduces the damaging impact on the environment by factor 8, as the products can be printed on site and there is no need for transportation. The fact that they are custom-made also eliminates the need for stock reserves or templates that result in waste and a loss of raw materials. Ultimately this all translates as a reduction in cost. Melotte, a subsidiary of the Ypres-based loom manufacturer Picanol, earns a 5.7 million euro profit from the 40000 dental prosthetics it produces each year.
“We are at the threshold of something phenomenal,” CEO Mario Fleurinck said a few months ago. “Printing bones on which new muscle tissue can be grown. Within the next 5 to 15 years we will be able to amputate a leg, keep the foot and put a printed leg in-between. A repairable human may not be that far-fetched.”