Dr. Mayra Vasques is a dental clinician, founder of iNNOV3D an EdTech company focused on supporting and training teachers and universities in Dentistry for the innovative and efficient use of 3D Technologies, and a researcher. She started in the additive manufacturing field in 2015, during her Ph.D. Fellow at the School of Dentistry at the University of Sao Paulo, where she led a project in additive manufacturing for the development of occlusal splints for patients with orofacial pain. Since then, she is publishing scientific papers and she has been involved in several AM research projects and as a panelist in conferences. She is deeply involved in creating a positive and more accessible local ecosystem in Brazil for digital technology and AM, working for local community building as Latin America Chair of Women in 3D Printing.
Mayra, could you let us know briefly about your background and your journey into Additive Manufacturing?
I have been working with digital dentistry since 2015, specifically in 3D printing to bring new solutions to my dental care. The beginning of my journey happened through academic research, in the PhD program, when I was looking for a solution to make occlusal devices for the treatment of bruxism and orofacial pain and I learned about the possibility of using 3D printing for this. At that time this was a very new application in additive manufacturing, mainly in relation to the available biocompatible materials.
In Brazil it was even more challenging to start because there was no equipment and materials available, in addition, there wasn’t the know-how and the technique had to be developed. This development required collaboration with different professionals from around the world through the exchange of experiences on social-media groups; that’s how I learned about the potential of belonging to a group, and how I discovered the existence of the Women in 3D Printing group. Believing that other people could benefit in the same way by belonging to a group, we promoted the formation of the Women in 3D Printing group in Brazil in 2018, with the first chapter in São Paulo. Later, I became an ambassador of this chapter and currently, I coordinate the Latin America area, which has 7 chapters.
Describe your “AHA” moment with additive manufacturing:
My moment of enchantment in 3D printing was when my first print was ready. It was amazing to see the level of detail that went into that piece, the quality, and the opportunity it brought to customize solutions for my patients.
To date, what would you say is your greatest achievement in Additive Manufacturing?
Additive manufacturing completely transformed my professional performance. As a clinician it transformed the results I deliver to my patients, as a teacher it changed my way of teaching and the subjects of my classes, as a researcher it brought me the opportunity to insert innovation and creativity in the research area.
Do you have any (fun or not) stories about your career to share with us?
I always remember the first time I printed a piece, I wanted to quickly see the result, however, the printing time reached almost 3 hours. Clicking on some buttons that I didn’t know I found one that reduced the printing time to 20 minutes and that made me very happy. I decided to send it to print. The result was that without knowing it, I reduced the piece by 90% – I printed an entire dental arch (measuring approximately 10 cm) in 1 cm. It was shocking! Despite this reduction, the piece was very detailed and defined, which made me even more delighted. That was also how I found out that I would have to study 3D printing because there were many parameters and all of them influence the result obtained. To this day I laugh remembering my scare when I took the piece off the printing table.
What is the best advice you were given in your career?
The best advice I’ve received in my career is to be persistent. Things often take time to happen, especially innovative and non-traditional things, such as technology in dentistry, 3D printing. Being a woman and working with innovation and technology in a conservative area means that you will probably have to prove your competence more often before you get recognition, but these will be solid results that will leave no doubt about your ability and will bear fruit for your career.
What is the most impressive or impactful use of 3D printing you’ve seen so far?
Every day I am surprised by new features of 3D printing, in all areas, from home use to use in high-tech industries, I cannot say which one impacts me the most, but I am sure that my greatest admiration is in the fact that this technology allows new ideas and solutions to leave the world of imagination and become real.
Have you run into any challenges from being a woman 3D Printing?
As I said before, I feel that spaces and opportunities are still smaller for women working in technology, you must prove your ability more often to be able to occupy these spaces. For some time, I struggled so intensely with the geographic difficulties of being away from major releases and developments in this market that I didn’t realize that I also faced gender obstacles. I thought it was difficult for everyone in my country, in my region, but after a while, I began to realize that because I am a woman, I faced some more difficulties. I was lucky to meet Women in 3D Printing right at the beginning of my journey and with that, other women who became true friends and who brought many opportunities to all.
One example is the book we wrote about digital dentistry. All authors are women and it all started from an idea we had during a Women in 3D Printing’s meeting.
In your experience, what are some actionable ways we can promote diversity more broadly?
A shared path is a smoother path. I believe that we should promote inclusion, mainly through example, through welcoming. If I have one opportunity, I try to bring more women to share it with me. If I can create a connection between people who will create a solution or business, I try to do that, even if I’m not going to participate. We must create the world we believe in, even if it seems too dreamy at times. The impact may be small in the short term, but in the long term, step by step, we can bring about a transformation.
Anything exciting coming up you’d like us to know about?
I am increasingly involved with the use of technology in health education. This is my project with innov3D, with research at universities and it will be the focus of my work in the coming years.
I also want more women in Latin America to have the opportunity to discover the potential of additive manufacturing. I have plans to somehow overcome language barriers so that we can really include these women.
Favorite AM tool? DLP Printer – my best friend nowadays
Favorite moment in your day job? Prototyping new solutions
What’s on your 3D Printing wishlist for the next 5 years? A multi-material dental printer
Who inspires you?Women revolutionizing through technology
“Additive manufacturing completely transformed my professional performance, made me a better professional for my patients, and also brought me friendships and accomplishments that make me realize and celebrate how technology can be humanized.” – Dr. Mayra Vasques