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After years of speculation, CAD/CAM came to fruition in the dental laboratory in 1998 with the official U.S. launch of the Procera® AllCeram Crown, featuring an aluminum oxide coping milled at Nobel Biocare’s production facility in Sweden. The success of Procera—and the introduction of a dozen new in-lab milling systems in the early 2000s—fueled intense interest among laboratory owners and made CAD/CAM the hot topic for the unforeseeable future.
The automated manufacturing process afforded an efficient, consistent method of production and also opened the door to using zirconia, the strongest material on the market for all-ceramic restorations; other material options, depending on the system, included aluminum oxide, lithium disilicate, composite, gold, non-precious alloys, reinforced ceramic-based materials and titanium.
As the number of systems on the market multiplied, laboratory owners who wanted to get on board grappled with purchasing decisions. Some opted to outsource, but many have made the investment; LMT’s 2013 Digital Technology survey found that 55% of full service and C&B laboratories have some type of digital equipment in-house.
The extent to which CAD/CAM has revolutionized our industry in such a short time is inarguable. In just 10 years, the percentage of CAD/CAM-milled restorations fabricated by labs has increased tenfold: according to LMT’s surveys, in 2003, CAD/CAM restorations were only 4% of the total C&B workload; they now make up 41%.
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