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Ryan Hamm is the Editorial Director for Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics.
Perhaps no topic continues to occupy the dental lab world more than trying to successfully navigate the digital revolution. Core3dcentres is a company trying to help labs make that transition smoothly and well. We spoke with Mark Ferguson, the Dental Solutions Integrator at Core3d, about how outsourcing can help labs of all sizes, how labs can go digital even if they don’t have the finances or human power, and how Core3d can help lab techs make the digital leap.
Who is Core3dcentres? Can you explain a little bit about why Core3dcentres was initially established?
Core3dcentres® is a facilitator of digital relationships for the global dental industry including digital communications, design and manufacturing solutions. A global partnership on four continents, Core3dcentres was established in October 2009 by a group of leading labs and milling centers around the world in response to a dramatically changing laboratory market: A struggling global economy, reductions in patient dental insurance coverage, price competition from offshore manufacturing, local price compression and the involvement of suppliers in the manufacture of restorative components and the end product. CAD/CAM, up until then, was limited to closed systems milling zirconia copings. At Core3dcentres, we could see where the market was going: open architecture, full contour, monolithic restorations, generic abutments, etc. To succeed, we needed the flexibility to advance and expand our offering, so we moved to an open architecture industrial milling platform. Under this scenario, our customers could select their own scanner and CAD system, and we could provide the most flexible, precise and productive restorative workflow solutions for their needs. Spearheaded by our education division, Core3daCADemy®, and supported by authorized vendor milling partnerships, Core3dcentres is able to offer our customers one of the broadest portfolios of products in the dental industry. We can process every restorative material for every clinical indication. We’re supporting all the biggest branded materials, and we have our own internal brands too. Our company functions as a one-stop-shop for our customers and we can provide them with pretty much any digital solution they could possibly need.
What is your role at Core3d? What’s your background in the lab world?
My role at Core3dcentres is Dental Solutions Integrator. I test new versions of software; fine tune material files; and teach our courses in Las Vegas as well as travelling to outside labs providing on-site training. My background in the industry is as a cosmetic full mouth technician. I got into the lab industry through my father’s technician, Lee Culp. My first job was with Matt Roberts, where I learned so much of what I still use today. For the past 11 years, I have been in Las Vegas where I was the Crown & Bridge, CAD/CAM manager at Aurum Las Vegas, on LVI’s campus. When Core3dcentres was created, I was moved over due to my CAD/CAM knowledge. I have been a beta tester for several CAD/CAM software companies, and since being at Core3dcentres, have been exposed to the highest end of dental manufacturing.
As someone who is so experienced with digital dentistry, what would you say to a lab-especially a smaller lab that might be worried about the initial cost-that is concerned about taking the digital plunge?
I would say to test the waters as you begin to integrate digital into your lab. In today’s landscape of digital technologies, the people and companies you choose to partner with can either build you up or let you down. I use scanners as an example of this. There are a number of non-dental suppliers out there but I don’t expect them to give the lab customer the support a dental company would. Getting all the info and making an informed decision is the best advice I can give. Choosing a level of involvement is next. I don’t think labs can avoid digital today. But digital involvement can be anything from sending models, right up to purchasing a milling machine. You have to decide where you fit in, what you want to do and finally, what is that the most profitable course of action for you.
In your experience, what kind of options do labs have who just don’t have the capital-either financial or employee-wise-to make an investment into a digital system?
Certainly starting by sending models to an outsourcing partner is a great step to take. I caution people as I say this. We get models every day that say “zirconia crown.” That doesn’t give enough info on what you would like to see. The more info you give to the person doing work for you, the better that person can achieve the goals you have for the case. I relate it to a doctor sending impressions and a script saying “crown.” Supply your outsource partner with the same level of information you would like to receive yourself and you’ll get superior results all-around.
As far as employee-wise, bringing in a CAD system can really make the technicians more productive, and with the right partner, allow you to become a full service laboratory “without the investment.” Of course, there is a learning curve-and continuing education is key. This brings back into focus the company the lab chooses to partner with. Are they prepared to train the technicians based on the work they are expecting to use the system for?
How can Core3dcentres help labs make those jumps from “I am not doing anything” to “I want to go digital but don’t know how” to “I’m ready to partner with someone for either outsourcing or for my own system?”
At Core3dcentres, we look to partner with labs to help grow their business. We can certainly take your model work and design cases to your specifications or explain the difference between different systems in terms of price and in terms of versatility. For new customers, we are happy to go over designs we have done for them live and explain details of a case before we process it. This can also serve as an intro to design software, and the versatility that it can provide your lab.
If someone can’t quite make the numbers work to invest in their own system, how can outsourcing help?
Outsourcing is like adding a piece-work technician. By sending model work, the lab can expand their material offering to their dentists dramatically, without purchasing a new material system. It can free up time to use for reconnecting with dentists, marketing, or even just free time. You move from a fixed cost scenario to a variable cost scenario with far more productivity and product range.
What makes Core3dcentres different than other milling centers? Why does it make sense to partner with you?
In terms of production capabilities and expertise, Core3dcentres has hired the proper people with the proper experience to do different jobs in our milling centers. We have experienced CNC machinists running the machines, an aerospace engineer as the global director of our engineering team, dental technicians designing and quality controlling cases, all supported by a precision manufacturing platform. We have also partnered with companies to make sure we are able to provide a wide range of products and services. From being an Ivoclar Vivadent Authorized Milling Center for their materials, to BioHorizons® for the milling of their parts for custom abutments, to iTero® for their milled models, to 3Shape TRIOS® and 3M™ True Definition printed models, to BEGO for their SLM product range, this all opens a wide range of expertise and product at your fingertips channeled through the experts at Core3dcentres. Several additional partnerships are in the works and will be announced soon.
At the same time, through education and the support of Core3dcentres as your outsource partner, you can become a “materials expert” over time to your dentist clients as opposed to just a “supplier,” setting you apart from your local competitors, again without having to invest in all those systems in your own lab.
Core3dcentres recently launched a new education initiative. What is the goal of that, and how can lab techs get involved?
We were very fortunate to find Emily Bradley to run the Core3daCADemy with her extensive past experience in laboratory education. We have worked together to deliver the most comprehensive digital dental educational curriculum in the market today. We have held courses in Las Vegas and Calgary, as well as customized curriculums we have brought on-site into laboratories themselves. From my experience, the labs that have CAD/CAM in the lab don’t use it, mostly because they were not properly trained. Unfortunately, this situation covers a lot of labs. We started the Core3daCADemy with this in mind, delivering a set of courses that build upon each other, to make sure labs are getting the most from their systems