Understanding When Lab Scanners Become Obsolete


There has been huge interest in the four new desktop scanners introduced by 3Shape at IDS this past March. Interestingly, we are now seeing a transition by many labs from existing older 3Shape scanners (as well as others) to these new generation models. That said, how and when do we make the decision that a digital device has reached its useful life expectancy and it makes business sense to move on?

Before we come to a conclusion on obsolescence, let’s first take a look at the new line up and discuss the improvements. Here is a look at the complete new product line. This includes a D750, D850, D900L, D1000 and D2000. The D750 replaces the D700 & D710 and the D850 replaces the D800 & D810. The D900L was introduced last year and the D1000 and D2000 are just beginning to ship.

The D900L (L for large), introduced a year ago as a complete new scanner. The primary difference in the D900L is a larger internal scan area. This may not sound like a big deal but it certainly is. The larger scan area enables one to scan models mounted on semi adjustable articulator bases. The older models do not scan these models when attached to tall articulator base. For those of you that use semi adjustable articulators, these new scanners are a MAJOR step forward. At both CAP and my lab ADT, we use these large frame, semi adjustable articulators very often. Prior to this innovation, frustratingly, every time we needed to scan a case mounted on an adjustable scanner, we were required to break the models off the bases and rearticulate to a much smaller far less accurate device. This requires additional labor, materials and is another step that can introduce error. In addition to the larger interior this is the first scanner to scan color. We have found this to be very helpful when designing as it will transfer ink markings on the casts to the CAD software. Some of these markings can include a line on the opposing model for length of incisal edge and middling. This is just a small amount of the potential that is unleashed with this feature.

The newly released D750 and D850, similar to the D900L, now include the larger internal configuration and accomplishes the same tall model scan functionality. In addition, 3Shape has moved away from using laser scanning technology to blue light. The older scanners used a single laser beam and moved across the surface of the cast. The new blue light scanner includes 27 simultaneous beams of light resulting in faster scan time and improved accuracy. Keep in mind, this new blue light technology is now available in all new 3Shape scanners with the exception of the D500.

The D1000 and D2000 are truly state of the art and most likely the most advanced scanners in our industry. First, they have all the same benefits of the D900L and are accurate to just 5 microns. In addition, these scanners eliminate the need for bite scans, saving time and thus money. The D2000 is an industry’s first, including an all-in-one scan process. This scanner has been designed to scan both the upper and lower casts, the bite registration and dies simultaneously in a single scan in about two minutes.

In addition to all the hardware changes, 3Shape has developed a new scanning software which is far more versatile and also much faster. The old software collects the scan data points and then stops the scanner to process the data. The new software collects the points moves them to processing and will simultaneously continue to scan. NO more waiting for the computer to process the point data. This new software is available on the complete new line of scanners. This includes the D750, D850, D900L, D1000 and D2000.

OK, now how do we determine if it’s time to make a change in existing scanners? Is what we are currently using obsolete? The best way to look at this is through a cost of use analysis. Let’s look at the following example.

  • Existing scanner takes 7 minutes on average to scan a case
  • Current scan volume is 20 cases a day
  • Labor paid to the scan staff is $15 an hour. Add benefits and the real cost is $19.50 per hour.
  • Labor cost of scanning is about $225 per week, $11,800 per year or $59K over five years

Now let’s do a comparative analysis to the new D2000:

  • Scans in just 2 minutes
  • Same volume, 20 cases a day
  • Labor is still $19.50 an hour
  • Labor cost of scanning is about $65 per week, $3380 per year or less than $17K over five years

In this comparative analysis the savings in just scan labor is about $42K over 5 years. This is less than the cost of the replacement D2000 scanner. Next add the cost of the associated problems due to using a less accurate scanner and remounting of complex cases and it become clear the old scanner is probably obsolete. Does this mean you must buy a new scanner? No, but it’s definitely something to consider.

For more info on the new 3Shape scanners click here:

Thanks for reading,

Bob Cohen, CDT

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