Inside the world's largest 3D printing operation

Align Technology produces half a million 3D printed parts every day, but 3D printing is just part of a cutting-edge digital manufacturing capability that includes generative design, AI, and advanced automation.
Jon Bruner

The 3D printers at Align Technology turn out half a million parts every day—an exceptional scale that makes the company the largest user of 3D printing in the world.

Align makes Invisalign dental aligners, the clear plastic trays that can replace metal braces. Each aligner is fabricated through a hybrid manufacturing process in which a plastic sheet is thermoformed over a 3D-printed pattern. Although the final product is not 3D printed itself, 3D printing is nevertheless the central enabler of Align’s manufacturing process.

But, as lots of companies have learned, installing a 3D printing capability is only the first step toward digital production. Align’s massive, custom-built additive production line is part of a digital workflow that begins when a patient’s mouth is scanned and incorporates generative design, deep learning, and lots of automation.

Joe Hogan, CEO of Align Technology, will speak at the Digital Factory Conference, along with more than 30 other CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, and front-line manufacturing leaders. Register soon! The Digital Factory sold out last year.

My guest in episode 21 of the Digital Factory Podcast is Emory Wright, Senior Vice President for Global Operations at Align. Listen to the episode to learn about Align’s AI-driven digital workflow, the scale of its operation, and how it manages the introduction of new technologies while keeping operations running smoothly.

Emory’s favorite tool: the impact driver, a drill-like power tool that uses short bursts of torque to more efficiently drive screws. Once you’ve used one, you’ll never use a drill as a screwdriver again.


Read the Digital Factory Report

The future of manufacturing is digital. We explore the technologies that are transforming fabrication, from advanced 3D printing to AI-assisted design, and get to know the leaders who are bringing them to the factory floor.

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