I like to think I come up with creative ways to save money. Hand-crafting some necessities is a big part of that, for me.
But New Jersey Institute of Technology digital design major Amos Dudley puts me to shame. Hands down.
Or maybe teeth down.
How Much Do Braces Cost? Not a Lot, If You’re Amos Dudley
Having already worn braces in junior high, Dudley wasn’t about to shell out $8,000 at 24 to correct his shifted smile. (Wear your retainer, kids!)
Naturally, he took matters into his own hands. Literally.
Using a 3D printer, Dudley designed and created a series of clear, Invisalign-style braces for himself… instead of helping an orthodontist fund her summer home.
His total cost came to $60, which he spent on the fee to use the school’s 3D printer and purchasing whatever material you feed into it to make it spit out functional medical equipment.
And it certainly was functional — check out his before and after photos over at CNN.
Now that’s DIY.
3D Printed Braces: Awesome, But Maybe Not Achievable for Everyone
It’s worthwhile to note that Dudley had the advantage of access to NJIT’s high-tech equipment — although he apparently designed and built his own 3D printer at home, since I guess that’s a thing you can do.
And while it wasn’t an assigned class project, he had support: “My professor thought it was very cool,” he said.
Dudley’s explicit about the fact that foregoing a professional orthodontist and crafting homemade body modifiers is risky business.
“What I did is not entirely safe,” Dudley wrote to me, “and requires a large measure of expertise and research.” You can read about his extensive process on his blog.
Further, Dudley wasn’t just interested in creating the braces to save some cash (although that certainly was one consequence). Imagining a subversive design experiment and following it through from beginning to end fulfilled his academic curiosity, as well.
While researching Invisaligns, Dudley realized he “had the tools and the skillset, although not the knowledge, to do it [him]self.”
Further motivated by the fact that “it’s a disruptive concept that challenges a lot of people’s assumptions about an industry,” he went ahead with the difficult task of figuring it out.
But even if you factor in the fraction of tuition costs that covered the time and equipment usage Dudley sunk into this project, building your own braces takes Penny-Hoarding to an award-winning level.
Dudley had to scan and print models of his teeth, before studying how teeth move and what increment of travel would make for a safe alignment tray. It took a series of 12 trays to entirely straighten Dudley’s teeth.
Although Dudley received offers from others wanting him to craft their braces, he declined due to liability worries and lack of interest.
“I’m not interested in orthodontics,” Dudley told CNN. “It was more of a hacker project” than a business idea.
He has noted, however, that he’s had several job interview requests owing to the project and his blog post documenting its completion.
“Although I’m always open to more,” he mentioned. “I graduate in May!”
Either way, color us crazy impressed. Keep on smiling, Dudley — you’ve got tons of reasons to.
Your Turn: Can you believe this guy created his own braces?
Jamie Cattanach (@jamiecattanach) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She also writes other stuff, like wine reviews and poems. She’s never had braces, but she certainly couldn’t have 3D printed them if she’d tried.