It was standing-room-only at DLOAC's annual CAD/CAM Symposium and Expo as nearly 300 laboratory owners and managers, outsourcing centers and manufacturers turned out for two days of lectures, demonstrations and exhibits.
"The only thing I can tell you for sure about CAD/CAM is that it's constantly changing. In fact, by the time I get off this stage, some of the information will likely be outdated," said Dentsply's Arlo King, a presenter at the Dental Laboratory Owners Association of California's (DLOAC) annual CAD/CAM Symposium and Expo held in November in Pasadena, California.
The ever-changing nature of digital technology was evident at the show: a number of companies featured their latest generation of software and equipment that offer expanded indications and material options.
Key trends include:
More digital solutions for removables. For instance, Dental Wings Partial Module software, available through Zahn Dental, allows users to virtually design removable partial frames that can then be printed in wax and cast. It has a variety of design applications and tools—including clasp design, palatal plate, lingual bars, occlusal rest, etc.—that the user selects and, with a simple mouse click, directs and designs each part of the frame.
3Shape's new Dental System™ 2010 software also designs removable partial dentures that are then printed in wax and cast. The software allows users to automatically identify undercuts and perform wax blockout, easily identify and add connectors and clasps, and select from a list of pre-defined grid patterns and apply the mesh to the digital model.
CadBlu has developed a unique way of working with 3Shape's RPD software. Its Intelligent Partial Design Station—launched at the show—uses software and a stylus pen to "draw" the partial design on a 21" screen or digital graphics tablet. The digital design is then output in wax on the 3D Systems' ProJet DP3000 printer and cast; you can create up to 30 ready-to-cast partials in under six hours.
Partnerships are going strong. The CadBlu, 3Shape and 3D Systems affiliation is a prime example of a continuing trend: manufacturers joining forces to create compatibility among their systems, giving users access to a wider range of input and output devices and indications. In fact, companies not partnering up with other manufacturers are now in the minority.
Software that opens closed files. Based in Milan, Italy, Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) System offers Dental Shaper, translation software that converts most closed CAD and CAM files into open .stl files. "Nearly anyone with different systems can now convert his files and start milling on the system of his choice," said Axel Pomeranz, President of axpDental, the exclusive U.S. distributor.
Monolithic and full-contour restorations continue to grow in popularity. These restorations are thriving because the digital fabrication process saves labor and they're an ideal alternative to cast metal restorations.
3M ESPE announced its plans to launch a monolithic restoration: Lava All Zirconia. The restoration can be used in the posterior as well as the anterior and is available this month.
Model-making systems and services on the rise. Already a leader in 3D printing in other industries worldwide, Objet Geometries hits the dental laboratory market with its Objet Eden 260V™ model printer. The unit prints models in 16-micron, ultra-thin layers using its Verodent polymer resin material. The company has granted Digital Dental Lab "master distributorship" of the printer. "There will be other dealers of the model printer, but we are responsible for selecting and training those distributors," says Kim Karpowitz, President of Digital Dental Lab.
CadBlu also launched a new model printer at the show, the MP Model Printer 3000, which it developed in collaboration with 3D Systems. The system accepts data from impression or intraoral scanners and can produce 52 quarter arch acrylic resin models in five hours. The company will also offer model printing services—as well as other milling and printing services—at the beginning of this year.
New Players in the Market
Unlike milling centers that typically offer CAD design and milling services, the latest digital business model is a CAD design-dedicated center like Fullcontour.com. "We target small labs that don't know CAD design, large labs that want to boost their CAD design department without having to hire and train new technicians and buy more equipment, and milling centers looking to subcontract some of their design work," says Rob Laizure, Vice President of Sales and Operations.
Currently specializing in economical full-contour designs—it plans to eventually offer more CAD services—the company's customer service center is in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the designs are completed at the Laizures' laboratory in China. They accept .stl files, have a two- to 24-hour turnaround time and customers can check the status of and approve their cases via Fullcontour.com's order tracking and communication system and iPhone application.
Seoul, Korea-based Medit has entered the U.S. market with its sleek, compact Identica scanner. Working with Solutionix, its sister company that manufactures high-end industrial scanners, Medit spent three years developing the open architecture unit that uses white light scanning and twin-camera technology to scan full arch models, single- and multi-unit dies, and impressions. Medit is looking for U.S. distributors and plans to open a U.S. office early this year.
The newest player in the area of digital intraoral scanners is Clōn 3D with the Progress IODIS (Intra Oral Digital Impression System). Still in beta testing and yet to be FDA registered, the system doesn't require an opaquing powder and consists of a portable handpiece connected to a laptop.
Editor's note: The 2011 DLOAC CAD/CAM Symposium and Expo will be held November 17-18 at the same location: Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa in Pasadena, California.