A scanner with connections

Digital EstheticsDental Lab Products-2011-03-01
Issue 3

Adding a scanner creates a clear path for a dental lab to transfer existing work from a physical to a digital workflow. But the process doesn’t start by scanning the next impression to arrive. The real first step to this process is deciding what type of scanner to invest in.

Adding a scanner creates a clear path for a dental lab to transfer existing work from a physical to a digital workflow. But the process doesn’t start by scanning the next impression to arrive. The real first step to this process is deciding what type of scanner to invest in.

There are a range of available technologies to digitally capture impression geometries, but they can be broken down into two scanner types: open scanners that export designs in a standardized format for output to a range of mills and printers, and closed scanners such as Straumann’s SC2 and Nobel Biocare’s NobelProcera that send data to the scanner manufacturer for production at the company’s industrial-scale production facility. Of course closed is not the term those companies prefer to use.

“Our system is more of a network system now,” NobelProcera Product Manager for North America Kim Solomon said. “We bring value because we’re responsible through every part of the process. You have an actual partner in us when you purchase the scanner.”

Network coverage

The advantages that come from this partnership are what Solomon believes set systems such as NobelProcera apart from open-architecture scanners. When showing a lab the scanner, Solomon touts the advantages of working in concert with Nobel Biocare.

“We want you to see the value of purchasing this scanner from us, and how we help you grow your business,” he said.

If business at labs using NobelProcera grows, it means Nobel Biocare’s business grows. Of course, that shared success hinges on the high quality of the final restorations being produced, and Nobel Biocare takes responsibility for making sure its industrial-scale production technology is as precise and efficient as possible. In turn, labs using the system know their software and scanners are precisely designed to work with those technologies. The partnership also provides assurances for the lab in terms of warranties on equipment and restorations. Solomon said having the system serviced by the company that created it rather than by a distributor is another big advantage.

“I know we’re on a platform now that will allow us to expand our product portfolio and continue to move forward in this digital environment,” he said. “I think the biggest asset we bring to the table is our people. We understand the market. We understand the laboratory owner and what he goes through every day.”

Scaled up

Purchasing a system that puts a lab into a partnership with the system’s manufacturer actually creates additional connections because companies the size of Nobel Biocare have partnerships and clients from throughout the dental industry, Solomon said. When a lab adds the NobelProcera scanner, it forms secondary partnerships with the materials manufacturers the company partners with-Vident, Ivoclar Vivadent and Noritake. The companies work together on R&D and product synergies, and thoroughly test new options before bringing them to the network, Solomon said.

“We have certified and matched products,” Solomon said. “If you use our milled titanium coping with their titanium porcelain, we’ve already done the testing to assure the laboratory technician that they will work.”

The partnerships also extend in the other direction. Dentists using Nobel Biocare’s clinical products also fall under the umbrella of the NobelProcera Network. The company’s NobelClinician software has been expanded with a NobelConnect portal capable of linking labs to clinicians for implant treatment planning, and eventually for planning other cases as well.

By creating an inclusive network and carefully choosing partners, Nobel Biocare is looking to make the NobelProcera system adaptable to fit a variety of labs, CAD/CAM business models and experience levels.

“We are moving toward an environment where we can assist our customers in realizing business growth,” Solomon said. “If the lab owner’s proficiency in a certain modality isn’t quite the level he’d like it to be, we offer multiple channels they can use to educate and market their new service. It’s still all within the network of Nobel Biocare.”

Set for scanning

Labs looking at adding a scanner need to be sure they have demand for restorations produced via CAD/CAM technology. Solomon said most labs currently outsourcing for the production of e.max, zirconia copings and frameworks are building up enough business to bring some of the digital workflow in-house.

A Network system is a good fit for labs that are not technologically adept because the lab does not have to worry about managing file formats or milling vendors, Solomon said. Nobel Biocare is invested in the laboratory to get the system up and running efficiently and profitably.

“We are 100% accountable,” he said. “We set a business plan in motion. We help the laboratory owner not only adapt to using this system but also empower him to see how it can help him run the lab more efficiently.”

This starts with training-onsite, at Nobel Biocare facilities and online-to teach technicians how to use the scanner and design software. While Solomon said it is user-friendly, it requires the same technical knowledge previously employed in the physical production processes.

“The digital technician has to have the skills to understand what he is designing,” he said.

Applying existing skills to a digital design workflow is one part of adding a scanner, but growing digital business is just as important. Solomon said Nobel Biocare is set up to help with this. The term closed-architecture scanner may be used widely, but Solomon prefers to think of it as a network scanner that creates a partnership providing benefits to everyone involved.

"We recognize it is a very crowded marketplace out there,” Solomon said. “Our focus is on our network of laboratories and how we can help them grow. Precision and profitability are the cornerstones to our approach. We’re not in it to just sell scanners, we’re really looking to partner with a laboratory and help them grow their business.”

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