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The CAD/CAM world can be confusing if you don't understand the terminology. Read the top five terms you need to know below:
STL is a file format of the surface geometry of a three-dimensional object. STL files are geometry only-there is no representation of color, texture or other attributes. In order for digital scanners and CAD software to have these attributes, the software manufacturers use proprietary file extensions, like .dcm, .cdt, .3dc or .cmf. Open systems will automatically convert their proprietary file format to STL.
Milling starts with a block/disc of a material and takes away the excess of material to leave the geometry of the part. The advantage of this is stability of the material. The disadvantage of this process is that it is limited to the size of the tool used to mill/grind away excess material (drill compensation) and minimum thickness before potential chipping.
Additive manufacturing is currently being used in several forms. SLM (Selective Laser Melting, Laser Sintering) and SLA (Stereolithography, printing) are the two most prominent methods used. These methods start from nothing and build up the manufactured product. The advantage of this is increased possibility of detail. The disadvantage is thickness is limited to grit/grain size of material used and the need for further post-processing for the product.
With IOS (IntraOral Scanning) technology becoming more prevalent in dentistry today, understanding differences between scanners (price and accuracy) can make or break a laboratory. Lab scanning has reached widespread acceptability. Any scanner will have its own workflow. Understanding of the differences between these will dramatically affect the ease of use of the STL files. With varying levels of accuracy between the scanners, an understanding of these differences and how they affect the accuracy of different types of cases is the clinical significance. For crown and bridge cases, the accuracy of all scanners (lab and intraoral) is more than acceptable. The level of clinical significance in accuracy rises when looking at multiple-unit, screw-retained bridges (implant bars).
With the dental field becoming more digital, HIPAA compliance will be scrutinized more and more. Basically, HIPAA compliance laws state that patient privacy cannot be compromised. The emailing of files (including photos, STL files, case notes, etc.) with any patient identifying information through conventional means is illegal. Brightsquid Secure-Mail is one example of a HIPAA-compliant email service.