Amos Dudley had a predicament. He hated his crooked teeth and needed braces, but was a "broke" college student. So, he turned to technology and 3D-printed his own braces.
Dudley is a 23-year-old digital design student at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He told BuzzFeed News he originally had braces in junior high, but neglected the upkeep.
"I felt bad about my teeth- in part because they were crooked, but also because they were a reminder that I had neglected them," he said. "I felt like I had wasted the money my parents spent on my braces."
He wrote on his blog that he had realized he had become self-conscious about his teeth and had stopped smiling as much.
"I wasn't smiling, and it was because I was unhappy with my teeth," he wrote on his blog.
Dudley began researching clear braces online to fix his teeth when he noticed something: The braces he was looking at looked like something that could be made with a 3D printer, which he has access to as a digital design student.
"What is to stop someone, who has access to a 3D printer, from making their own orthodontic aligners?" he said he wondered.
Dudley said his motivations weren't completely financial, because he knew he could probably afford braces a few years from now after he graduated college.
He said it was the mix of money and trying a cool experiment that intrigued him.
"When I realized that I could do something that was a little bit culturally disruptive, while demonstrating my skills as a designer and a maker, and fixing something that was making me self-conscious for virtually free, I felt it was more than worth the risk," he said.
After a ton of research, Dudley created his own set of 12 plastic braces. He documented the whole process on his blog, and noted he made the braces as part of a portfolio project for school.
The project cost under $60, far less than the up to $8,000 that clear braces normally cost, CNN Money reported.
Dudley added that he did the project with the support of his friends and family.
"I told my friends and family, they thought it was wonderful," he said. "I have a very supportive family."
So, do they work? After 16 weeks of wear, Dudley has a significantly straighter smile.
Dudley said the braces are almost totally invisible, and he experiences less pain now that he has switched to a different set.
"Most importantly, I feel like I can freely smile again. That's what's most important," he wrote.
Though many people have commented on his blog that he should go into the 3D braces business, Dudley isn't planning on making sets for others.
But, he said its clear that people are "frustrated with the state of the orthodontic appliance industry."
"There's not enough competition, and prices are very high," he said.
Stephanie McNeal is a social news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Stephanie McNeal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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