Benefits of in-house lab, start-to-finish CAD/CAM systems

Digital EstheticsDental Lab Products-2013-02-01
Issue 2

Systems with a scanner, software and a mill allow labs of all sizes to bring start-to-finish CAD/CAM capabilities in-house.

Systems with a scanner, software and a mill allow labs of all sizes to bring start-to-finish CAD/CAM capabilities in-house.

The digital technology currently available to dental laboratories opens numerous new opportunities for collaboration and outsourcing, but there are plenty of options for labs looking to incorporate CAD/CAM production without relinquishing control of any part of the workflow.

Complete CAD/CAM systems- comprised of a scanner, software/ workstation and a mill, often designed and manufactured by one company- can provide an entry into CAD/CAM or a solid expansion choice for labs already scanning or designing digital restorations.

These stand-alone CAD/CAM systems such as Amann Girrbach’s Ceramill, DENTSPLY Prosthetics’ Cercon or BIOMET 3i’s Incise , among others, provide labs with a digital workflow that takes a case from a physical or digital impression to completed prosthetic quickly and accurately without any part of the process being completed outside of the lab.


Working with a complete CAD/CAM system where every component comes from the same company offers labs a number of advantages, not the least of which is efficiency.

Because the scanner, software and mill were all designed together, the workflow between parts of the system is seamless and training on the technology is simplified because technicians only need to learn one interface, rather than having to understand how to transfer data from one company’s software to hardware from another company.

Having one source for the technology is advantageous whenever a lab using the system is looking to improve their work. When there are any questions about how some part of the process is supposed to be completed, a lab with a complete CAD/CAM system knows exactly where to turn for troubleshooting assistance.

DENTSPLY Prosthetics Product Manager Erica Henny said labs using Cercon will notice this cohesiveness and support from the moment they adopt the system. While these systems might be designed and supported by one company, they are not always designed to work in isolation. A big advantage to the Ceramill system, for example, is that it is a complete system, but with open architecture software capable of working with data from scanners and software made by other companies.

This means the system can be a good expansion choice for labs already into CAD/CAM production in one way or another.


It is not difficult to show labs how adding such a system can provide solid return on investment because in-house CAD/CAM production is both efficient and cost effective, especially because most of these systems do not charge a per-unit clock or dongle fee.

With complete control of the production process, labs with a system such as Ceramill can complete cases more rapidly while maximizing the use of milled materials. This can add up to large savings for labs currently sending a large amount of work to a milling center.

Having the ability to complete every step of the process in-house can speed up a lab’s production, and Henny said a big advantage of Cercon is that it is among the least expensive complete systems on the market, but still offers labs a range of options. Those options include not only in-lab milling of zirconia and base cast resin, but also the ability to outsource to the company’s Compartis® manufacturing facility for greater material options and implant bar fabrication.

And like all technology, the improvement process is never ending. Purchasing a complete system makes it easier for a company to update the software in ways that enhance the capabilities of the related hardware. Henny said forthcoming updates to the Cercon art software will provide for the design of custom implant abutments as well as full-contour zirconia crowns.

With the ability to mill zirconia and acrylic materials, the Ceramill Motion provides a launching point for in-house production, and the Ceramill Mind software features a virtual articulator and the ability to import data directly from intraoral scanners, which means labs looking to work completely digital can skip model fabrication when they choose to.


Determining if a complete CAD/CAM system is a good fit for an individual lab requires some inward analysis.

It’s not just about the size of a lab taking advantage of the scalability of digital workflows. The common factor linking those labs is the desire to increase their efficiency in certain areas of production by controlling the pace of the work and reducing per unit manufacturing costs.

Henny said many mid-sized dental labs benefit greatly from adding the in-lab CAD/CAM capabilities of the Cercon system, and those benefits can be realized quickly because of the system’s ease of use. Still, the system fits with any lab looking to invest in its business by reducing the time it takes to complete a case and return it to the dentist.

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