DENTAL PART MAKERS CROWN THEIR CHOPS WITH CAM TECHNOLOGY
Dental products are one of the hottest markets for the CAD/CAM and healthcare industries. How does manufacturers beat their growing and intensifying competition in this sector?
History shows the manufacturers that succeed, not just survive, are those that successfully adapt to changing market conditions and stay ahead of their competition. Here are two particular players in the dental products industry that represent perfect examples of adapting to stay ahead:
ISSAAQUAH MILLING CENTER
“Everybody’s seen that this is a very successful segment and they’re jumping on the bandwagon,” says Jay Haines, manager of Issaquah Milling Center (IMC; Issaquah,WA) outside of Seattle. “During our search for a competitive advantage, I was looking for CAM software that gave us the most flexibility and the best customer service when I was looking for potential packages.”
The IMC makes substructures for crowns and bridges for the dental industry. The shop was formed by the Issaquah Dental Lab in Issaquah so that it could gain control over its manufacturing. Until that time, the organization had, like many other labs, installed an in-house scanner to collect data from its patients and send its coping designs out via the Internet to have them fabricated.
Since then, the IMC has maintained its rapid growth in the face of increasing competition. Haines believes that the PowerMILL and DentMILL software they use from Delcam (Salt Lake City, UT) provides the best combination of user interaction and user interface and do what essentially the business needs to do.
One of this shop’s favorite features of DentMILL is the exclusive engraving feature. “We have many parts come to us that are defined elsewhere. If a remote lab has scanned a part, it would be a nightmare to manage getting the correct parts to the correct customer,” explains Haines. “With DentMILL, I can engrave a mark that represents a particular lab on every individual part. It doesn’t show or harm the integrity of the part. I can look at it under the microscope and make sure my customers are happy because they’re getting their parts and not somebody else’s. I haven’t seen any other dental CAM product that has this engraving feature.”
The IMC team has developed their own software solutions to integrate with these suites as part of their custom machining strategies. That’s helped the company grow over the past few years from one 3M Lava Zirconia milling machine to ten. They have also added a Wieland i-mes machine. But despite the demands and stresses associated with such fast and dramatic growth, the CAM tools have made the job easier.
“The technical support is great,” notes Haines. “That makes it easier for me to do my job because I don’t hesitate or think about who I call to get what I want when I need it.”
Speaking of demands and stress, another dental parts manufacturer, Glidewell Laboratories (Newport Beach, CA) might appear to have bitten off more than they can chew. The company is the world’s largest maker of crowns and other dental parts, with 2,500 employees and seven locations. But thanks to their partnership with Delcam, they’re not only bridging the gap, their opening their lead wider.
Owner Jim Glidewell says DentMILL has changed the way he runs his business. “I used to fixate on what machines to buy. Today I only care about what software I buy. That’s why we’ve partnered with them and, frankly, it’s been the most beneficial thing we’ve ever done.”
As examples, Glidewell begins with his purchase of five new Intellitech Benchman machines several years ago. “This machine costs about $75,000. Up until about a year ago, I was running five of these full-time, day and night. With the addition of DentMILL software a year ago, I only need three machines to do the same amount of work. If I had bought that CAM software initially, I could have saved $150,000 in capital expenditures.”
This CAM software also enabled the shopto nest 60 percent more parts in each block of zirconia, speed up the milling process 35 percent, cut zirconia use 40 percent, and save money on this expensive substance which costs more than $200 for each 127 mm disc.
“The nesting of these parts has been greatly optimized by the use of the software” adds Glidewell. As they produced more dental parts faster and less expensively, the number of cracks, chips and other defects dropped dramatically. The new, smoother machine toolpaths have created much better overall surface quality.
“The machines became insignificant compared to the software that manages that machine” Glidewell says. “My experience has shown that Delcam software can make any machine look good. Delcam came through for us.”
Issaquah Milling Center, 640 NW Gilman Boulevard, Issaquah, WA 98027, 425-
Glidewell Laboratories, 4141 MacArthur Boulevard, Newport Beach, CA 92660, 800-854-7256, www.glidewelldental.com.
Delcam USA Inc., 275 East South Temple Street Salt Lake City, UT 84111, 801-575-6021, www.delcam.com.