COVID-19: Orthodontic company using 3D printers to make vent parts and face shields

TechRepublic's Karen Roby talks with the president of Byte about how the company is using 3D printers to make needed healthcare supplies and sharing its teledentistry network during the coronavirus crisis.

COVID-19: Orthodontic company using 3D printers to make vent parts and face shields

TechRepublic's Karen Roby talked with Neeraj Gunsagar, president of Byte, a company that makes dental aligners, about the steps his company is taking to help frontline healthcare workers in the fight against COVID-19. The following is an edited transcript of their interview.

Neeraj Gunsagar: About a week ago, the executive team got together and realized that we needed to do our part to fight this coronavirus crisis. We very quickly looked at our manufacturing capacity both in Ardmore, OK, as well as in California, and we spoke to our supply chain folks, and we realized that we could shift a certain amount of our 3D printers out in Oklahoma to focus on a couple of things. One was airway parts for ventilators. So our head of manufacturing out there sent us some images and videos of the 3D printing process to get the airway [parts]. He actually showed us a finished product. We're kind of looking through what the demand is, what the need is when it comes to ventilator and ventilator parts, and prioritizing those parts that are in most demand based on what we can actually print.

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We're making sure that we're still focusing on our core business as well. We just added on printers to be able to do this. We're doing very well as a business right now, so to be able to carve out a little bit of time and space and facilities manufacturing capacity, it seemed like the right thing to do. In California, there's a combination of a low-tech version and a high-tech version.

Our head orthodontist out in California had been getting a lot of questions from local ER doctors and nurses about air shields. We very quickly realized that we could actually pivot some of our human resources, buy from local suppliers, be it Home Depot, be it whatever, and put together home shields very quickly on a low-tech basis and provide 10, 15, 20 to the local hospital and then work hospital to hospital in our local community out here in California.

What we really want to do is prove out to the country and the world that even the little things you can do, if you think about it at scale over 10 million companies, 5 million companies, 100 million families, whatever it may be, if you can provide one shield, two shields, masks, whatever you can do, if we bring that to scale and provide it out to the ecosystem, it will be a really big win for the entire country.

Karen Roby: And how are you guys helping patients at home as well?

Neeraj Gunsagar: What's great about our product is that our product is an at-home invisible teeth aligner system. They'll get an impression kit. They'll take a mold of their teeth. They'll send it back to us, and we very quickly send them out a digital scan of their teeth. It shows the imperfections and shows how an aligner system can help them work. In order to do that properly, we had to build out an entire teledentistry platform, meaning the local dentists, the local orthodontist in the state that puts together the plan and the treatment is able to communicate with the at-home consumer about their entire treatment plan. That was focused on Byte consumers only, and so we've been growing, like I said earlier, nearly 1,000% year over year. It's very profitable.

What we decided to do about two weeks ago is we knew that there were thousands, tens of thousands of dentists and orthodontists whose office is shut down, but consumers or patients that were going through treatments still needed to communicate with those doctors and dentists or just had general questions about their oral care. We opened up that platform very early on to the entire country for free. Since we've done that, we've had thousands and thousands of patients kind of check in with our network, have questions, and we try to turn around those within 24 hours, giving access to our entire dental network to answer those. Then our chief cosmetic officer, Dr. Jon Marashi, he goes on Instagram and he answers some of the most common questions through his stories on Instagram, which has been very powerful and is providing comfort for the entire country when it comes to their oral care needs.

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Karen Roby interviews Neeraj Gunsagar, CEO of Byte, about how his company is helping create needed parts during the coronavirus crisis. 

Image: Mackenzie Burke