Selecting CAD CAM for Growth

There’s a lot to consider when figuring out which CAD CAM to purchase. Here I’ll outline the keys that I’ve found to be critical:

Choose Open Architecture

First, the very important decision, CAD or design software. For starters, make sure it’s fully open architecture. Today, there is zero reason to lock yourself into one source for production. In fact, your future success will likely require in-house production, no outsourcing or possibly very little. Locked in is really locked OUT and way too many have chosen this path. OK, back to CAD. When selecting CAD it’s important to buy a system that is offering a continuous flow of new indications. Keep in mind, we are interested in growth through new product launches. If we have a CAD system that has little development there will be reduced opportunity to bring on new indications to the market.

Select a Scanner

Next is scanners. For the purpose of this blog I would suggest that most scanners on the market are adequately accurate for clinically acceptable results of most restorations. Primary considerations, speed, ease of use and cost. The scanner selected is a less critical decision provided you can get the scan data into the more important CAD software selected.

Determine the Right CAM Based on Your Future Needs

Next stop in the digital workflow, CAM. CAM is something often not given adequate consideration to when purchasing. Generally, when purchasing a mill, a lab owner will buy the CAM paired and sold by the distributor for that mill. The reason this is occurring, many are not adequately familiar with what CAM even does. To make a long story short, as an analogy, CAM is like the driver of a car. CAM steers the mill. There are some important aspects to choosing the right CAM but the most critical, has the distributor developed all the needed milling strategies for the new products you intend on offering? Is the distributor continuing CAM strategy development?  If not, you have a driver behind the wheel that has no idea how to get where you want to go and neither do you. I would suggest discussing indications you plan on offering and find out if the CAM has the needed mill strategies for both today and tomorrow. Do this before purchasing. Another good question for the distributor, “do you have someone on staff to develop new CAM strategies?” If not, you may be limited as to what indications you can produce.

Evaluate Your Mill Needs

Lastly, the correct mill. For the sake of this blog and the sake of thinking about growth through new product launches, there are two ways to evaluate your needs.

  1. Purchase a mill that will replace what you are now outsourcing, make sure the ROI works and spend as little as possible on this purchase.
  2. Purchase a mill that will enable product line growth over time and (like CAM) be able to produce new indications later.

The four most important decisions in selecting a mill to help grow your lab are;

  1. 4 or 5 axis
  2. Dry only
  3. Wet only
  4. Wet and Dry

4 or 5 Axis?

The 4 or 5 axis mill is really not a difficult decision. Some say, “ A 4 axis will do 90% of what you need, so buy the 4 and outsource what you need milled on a 5 axis”. I beg to differ. First, it’s not always obvious what can not be milled in 4 axis, which can result in delays of case delivery due to needing more time to outsource. In addition, there are so many indications that require 5 axis that purchasing a 4 will reduce your ability to add new products to your product line. Please keep in mind, I’m not suggesting there is not a place for a 4 axis mill in the dental lab. For labs that have 5 axis capability when adding an additional mill, 4 axis should be considered.

Wet and/or Dry?

Wet or dry only or wet and dry? If you’re interested in growth through new product launch versatility is King. A 5 axis mill specifically designed to go from wet to dry and back to wet will be a best choice. Unfortunately, it’s likely the more expensive than either a wet or dry only mill. But the additional options and added indications are worth the price of admission. The extra cost will be $125-150 a week  over 5 years, not that much of an entry barrier. Keep in mind, there are many mills on the market that are outfitted to mill wet and dry. However, they have not been adequately designed to go back and forth on a daily basis. Buying one of these can result in mill failure, added cost and much frustration. Be careful when selecting a mill to mill both wet and dry on a daily basis. For more information on how to select best-in-class CAD CAM solutions, contact CAP today: 800-496-9500 (option 9).

Thanks for reading, feel free to leave comments.

Bob Cohen, CDT

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