The DLOAC's annual CAD/CAM Symposium and Expo featured the latest in digital technology and over 300 laboratory owners and managers, manufacturers, suppliers and outsourcing centers were on hand for two days of lectures, live demonstrations and exhibits. LMT was your eyes and ears at this year's event.
"Has dentistry gone digital? Do I really need this technology? Can I learn it? Yes, yes and yes," said Digital Dental Lab's Kim Karpowitz, one of the presenters* at the 2008 Dental Laboratory Owners Association of California's (DLOAC) fifth annual International CAD/CAM Symposium and Expo, held in November at the Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa in Pasadena, California.
It's clear that digital technology in our industry is a necessity, not a novelty, and manufacturers are making changes to improve digital workflow, expand indications and further automate traditional fabrication techniques. For instance:
Manufacturers are partnering to create open systems. One noticeable trend is manufacturers partnering with one another to create compatibility between their systems, giving users access to a wider range of input and output devices and indications. For instance, labs with a Lava scanner can now send digital files to Astra Tech for fabrication of Atlantis™ patient-specific abutments. The service was recently launched in North America after extensive beta testing with a pilot group of laboratories.
Manufacturer partnerships are good news for laboratory owners wary about the open system concept. For instance, one concern is that if you buy a scanner from company A and a milling unit from company B, it's not clear which manufacturer will help if there's a problem with the process or end result. "Open architecture is great until something goes wrong," said Fred Senne, regional manager of laboratory sales, Astra Tech, Inc. "This is why we work in partnership with other manufacturers for the benefit of our customers. We pre-define responsibilities and have a plan for possible issues ahead of time to ensure the most optimal support for the customer."
Indications continue to expand. For instance, demand for CAD-generated implant abutments—an alternative to stock or laboratory-fabricated cast custom abutments—continues to grow because they're more economical, less labor intensive and more precise than traditional methods. Two years ago, only three of the exhibiting manufacturers offered this restoration; this year, that number has more than doubled with additional companies planning to offer them later in 2009.
Milled full contour restorations are also available from a growing number of manufacturers. These restorations are popular because the digital fabrication process saves labor, and milled full contour restorations are stronger throughout compared to a layered crown.
Full contour restorations can be fabricated in two ways:
Anatomical full crowns can be milled out of Ivoclar Vivadent's Empress CAD and e.max CAD or Vita's Mark II feldspathic ceramic then stained.
An overpressed full crown is created by milling a full contour waxup out of wax or resin and then investing and pressing it to a coping.
New systems further improve laboratory processes. Nobel Biocare's new impression scanner for the laboratory—the NobelProcera Scanner which will be formally launched at LMT Lab Day® in February—uses unique, patented scanning technology to scan either an impression or a batch of dies. The resulting CAD designs will be available in a variety of new materials for PFM, bar and telescopic case solutions.
Even though it doesn't solve the core problem of poor impression-taking techniques, DLOAC attendees were excited about the new product because it eliminates model pouring and is yet another aspect of their work they can digitize. "I see scanning an impression as a much more viable solution in our future than digital impressions because it doesn't require a technique change on the part of the dentist," said Kristie Rocco, co-owner, Rocco's Dental Studio, Escondido, California.
Editor's note: The 2009 DLOAC CAD/CAM Symposium and Expo will be held November 20-21 at the same location: Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa in Pasadena, California. The 20 companies that made presentations at the meeting include: 3D Systems, 3M ESPE, 3Shape, Astra Tech, C5 Medicalwerks, Cadblu West, Cadent, CeraSys, Dale Dental, Dentsply Prosthetics, Digital Dental Lab, GC Advanced Technologies, Kavo, Nobel Biocare, Roeders of America, Sirona, Straumann, Whip Mix Laboratory Services, Wieland and Zahn.