At the Dental Laboratory Owners Association of California's fifth annual International CAD/CAM Symposium and Expo, held in November in Pasadena, California, Dave Lesh, CDT, presented "Current Trends and the Future Outlook of CAD/CAM Technologies." Lesh, owner of Dale Dental, Richardson, Texas--an outsourcing laboratory that owns 11 CAD/CAM systems--offered DLOAC attendees a glimpse of what's hot and what's coming down the pike:
Boom in scanner sales. Most CAD/CAM manufacturers offer stand-alone scanners, a less expensive alternative that allows the laboratory to buy only the scanner to scan and design its own restorations and then send the data off-site for fabrication. The scanner-only option has been popular for the last few years because it makes outsourcing easier to access, reduces costs and turnaround time, and improves control, but Lesh predicts this trend is about to explode. "Today, manufacturers are partnering to create open systems and labs with scanners have more output options than ever before so it really makes sense to invest in a unit," said Lesh. "This will be the fastest growing segment in laboratory hardware sales." (For more information, see Partnership: Key Theme at Annual CAD/CAM Meeting on page 12.)
Demand for process technologies. Unlike what Lesh calls "product technologies" which give you a new product or brand name to market and sell (for instance, Lava or Captek), process technologies are systems that labs won't necessarily market, but will help them decrease labor, improve consistency, or create a better product. "For instance, you wouldn't market the fact that you now have a certain type of wax printer because doctors won't be interested in that, but you will market the fact that you can now provide a faster or more precise restoration," said Lesh.
A steady progression towards chairside manufacture. Lesh predicts that, where possible, manufacturers will seek opportunities to sell restorative products directly to dentists. While direct selling is not new in our industry, he believes laboratories should allocate marketing dollars to promote their company as a brand and not solely rely on marketing manufacturer products.
Zirconia copings that cost less than gold. "Fortunately, we are beginning to see costs come down as machines purchased many years ago are now paid for and the digital workflow is improving," said Lesh. "Soon, a zirconia coping should not cost more than a gold coping."
Microwave sintering of zirconia restorations allows the laboratory to deliver a same-day zirconia restoration. At the Expo, CeraSys and Digital Dental Lab were the only two companies on hand that currently offer microwave sintering. Restorations can be sintered, for instance, in CeraSys' new CeraHeat oven in two-and-a-half hours versus eight hours in its old unit. Lesh believes that more and more manufacturers will develop this technology so laboratories can offer faster, more efficient service to dentist-clients.