The medical devices industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by increased need for homecare, preventative treatments, early diagnosis, reducing patient recovery times and improving outcomes, as well as a growing importance in technologies such as machine learning, augmented reality, 5G and digitalisation. In the last three years alone, there have been over 450,000 patents filed and granted in the medical devices industry.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

150+ innovations will shape the medical devices industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the medical devices industry using innovation intensity models built on over 550,000 patents, there are 150+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, AI-assisted radiology, motion artefact analysis, and treatment evaluation models are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. MRI image smoothing, AI-assisted EHR/EMR, and AI-assisted CT imaging are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are computer-assisted surgeries and 3D endoscopy, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for artificial intelligence in the medical devices industry

3D dental scanning is a key innovation area in artificial intelligence

Dental 3D scanning, or intraoral scanners, allow dentists to produce a precise three-dimensional view of the mouth and teeth, to facilitate diagnosis and aid planning of treatment. 3D dental scanning is replacing traditional dental impressions as they can be produced significantly faster, and provide a more accurate surgery and faster recovery times for patients.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies.  According to GlobalData, there are 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established medical devices companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of 3D dental scanning.

Key players in 3D dental scanning – a disruptive innovation in the medical devices industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to 3D dental scanning

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Align Technology 324 Unlock company profile
Dentsply Sirona 213 Unlock company profile
Dental Monitoring 76 Unlock company profile
Carestream Dental Technology Topco 66 Unlock company profile
DIO 56 Unlock company profile
Onex 38 Unlock company profile
3Shape 31 Unlock company profile
Medit 27 Unlock company profile
Envista Holdings 27 Unlock company profile
Ivoclar Vivadent 25 Unlock company profile
Morita Holdings 24 Unlock company profile
Osstem Implant 21 Unlock company profile
TROPHY 20 Unlock company profile
Zimmer Biomet Holdings 19 Unlock company profile
SmileDirectClub 18 Unlock company profile
3M 18 Unlock company profile
A Tron3D 17 Unlock company profile
ULab Systems 15 Unlock company profile
Straumann Holding 10 Unlock company profile
PLAQLESS 9 Unlock company profile
MegaGen Implant 9 Unlock company profile
Borea 8 Unlock company profile
Qisda 8 Unlock company profile
Colgate-Palmolive 8 Unlock company profile
Koninklijke Philips 6 Unlock company profile
Brain Navi Biotechnology 6 Unlock company profile
ClaroNav 6 Unlock company profile
Oxilio 5 Unlock company profile
Nissin Dental Products 5 Unlock company profile
Cvstom (Uniform Teeth) 5 Unlock company profile
Midmark 5 Unlock company profile
Shofu 5 Unlock company profile
Procter & Gamble 5 Unlock company profile
Moog 5 Unlock company profile
Danaher 5 Unlock company profile
Anatomage 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Dentsply Sirona and Align Technology are two of the leading patent filers in 3D dental scanning. Some other leading patent filers include Carestream Dental Technology , Onex, Morita Holdings, Dental Monitoring, 3Shape and Osstem Implant.

In terms of application diversity, Zimmer Biomet Holdings leads, following by 3Shape and Align Technology. With regards to geographic reach, Brain Navi Biotechnology leads, followed by Plaqless and Koninklijke Philips. The segment is fiercely competitive, evidenced by 3Shape recently filing an infringement complaint against Medit, regarding technology used in 3D dental scanners.

3D dental scanning is likely to become the dominant modality within dentistry, displacing the long-established practice of using dental impressions. The technology not only provides for much better outcomes for the patients, but it provides for considerable cost savings for the dentist, by increasing the throughput of patients with less time wasted preparing multiple impressions, removal of the need to physically store impression, all of which contributes to improving the margin for the dental business.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the medical devices industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Medical Devices.


GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.