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Ryan Hamm is the Editorial Director for Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics.
In this 10 Questions article with Dental Lab Products, Rita Acquafredda explains how Zahn Dental works with laboratories to bring the digital workflow to the benchtop.
Zahn Dental has made its name by providing great options for a variety of dental laboratory needs. And as the lab industry has made the shift from traditional to digital, Zahn has expanded its offerings accordingly. DLP recently spoke with Rita Acquafredda, Vice President and General Manager of Zahn Dental, about those shifts. She explained how recent partnerships and new advances in digital technology are helping dental laboratories, and what makes Zahn Dental's product offerings unique.
01. Zahn Dental has announced some significant partnerships in the early months of 2015. Can you tell us more about some of these?
As the leading distributor in the industry, our team looks at all products, services and equipment that may add value to our customers. As 3D printing continues to grow, we recently began offering new printing solutions from BEGO USA and 3D Systems. We feel these new offerings will help meet laboratories’ diverse needs, and each printer offers different solutions for laboratories looking to enter or add to their 3D printing technology. In addition, we have entered into an exclusive partnership with Glidewell Laboratories to distribute BruxZir Zirconia and Obsidian Lithium Silicate, as well as BruxZir™ Anterior. Given the rapidly evolving area of guided surgery, we are also now offering 360imaging®, which enables dental laboratories to penetrate the guided surgery field quickly, more efficiently and with more confidence.
02. When Zahn is considering what next products to offer, what is your selection process?
Before we offer new products and services to our customers, our team reviews what kind of impact they will have on the laboratory: Will it improve production time? Does this enhance connectivity to their clients? Can a laboratory now offer more products and services to clinicians?
To best understand the potential effect of innovative solutions, we organize focus groups and work closely with our extensive education and technical support departments that help us uncover how these new opportunities may improve our customers’ profitability and product offerings.
03. How have you seen the lab world change in 2015 so far?
The dental laboratory industry has seen a huge change in the past few years, and 2015 is no different. Laboratories that have adopted technology are able to offer more products by partnering with production centers, such as Custom Milling Center (CMC). Labs that have increased their production now have affordable solutions for milling and printing in house.
04. How do you see dental laboratories changing in the rest of 2015?
We foresee the need for digital-ready laboratories to continue to grow. As dental practices begin to accept digital impression systems, we foresee the need for properly trained laboratories capable of receiving digital files to continue to grow. The future of digital dentistry is now. Clinicians are just starting to embrace the workflow, and laboratories that have already invested in digital technology will be a valuable resource in the near future.
05. What, in your opinion, is the main challenge presented to labs by digital technologies?
We feel that the main challenge in the digital workflow is support. When a laboratory integrates a CAD/CAM system into its workflow, that is just the beginning of the process. There is an installation, training and learning curve that is different for each laboratory and technician. To ensure our partners get the support they need, we recently launched a specialized North America CAD/CAM technical support team. This team consists of CDTs, RDTs and experienced repair technicians available by phone and email to support laboratories.
Next page: What opportunites are available through technology?
06. Flipping the question: What is one of the main opportunities afforded to labs by digital technology?
The main opportunity for laboratories in regards to digital technology is entering at comfortable stages for each laboratory. Not every laboratory can justify adopting all of the technology on the market; it is a process of understanding the benefits of each system and what that technology is currently able to do to improve the laboratory’s workflow. Laboratories can get started by outsourcing to CMC to offer materials they are not able to produce in their lab. When a lab has enough volume, we have trained consultants to advise on printers and milling machines that would make it more profitable, but ultimately the laboratory can continue to follow the workflow that is comfortable for its business model.
07. How does technology allow labs to better work with GPs?
Laboratories that have embraced an open architecture scanner are already equipped to take the next step with their clients. Clinicians are beginning to embrace digital impressions and the need for digital-ready labs that are trained and comfortable with providing support will be in high demand. We feel that clinicians will view the laboratory more as a consultant and partner when it comes to working within the digital workflow, and we are excited about the opportunity of connecting digital-ready laboratories to digital-ready practices.
In addition to entering the digital space at a comfortable pace, labs that embrace digital practices have an opportunity to find new dental customers. By working with Zahn, customers have a unique opportunity to also benefit from Henry Schein Dental, which not only promotes our brands of digital materials but helps connect our digitized lab customers to these dental customers.
08. How does Zahn Dental help labs achieve this goal?
Digital materials and equipment continue to enter the market at an accelerated rate, and being able to offer materials like Zirlux® and services from CMC enables our customers to have access to leading products.
09. How does Zahn Dental help labs of every size meet the challenges of 2015?
We have solutions for every size laboratory. What works for a production lab with 100 technicians won’t work for a one- or two-man lab. CMC is the first step for laboratories that want to access some of the leading materials on the market without making investments in CAD/CAM equipment. CMC can receive traditional models, as well as STL files, help with design services and manufacture the latest materials and custom abutments/bars.
10. Anything else you’d like to add?
The landscape in our industry continues to evolve. New products, technology and services are introduced at a rapid pace, and we pride ourselves on making these products available to our customers. We look forward to partnering with our customers as we connect laboratories and clinicians to improve workflow and ultimately improve patient care.