Untangling the confusing world of CAD/CAM

November 21, 2013
Ryan Hamm
Issue 10

Anybody who’s ever researched investing in a digital workflow solution for their dental lab knows all of the different terms. They also know how confusing these terms can be-how does one even begin to navigate the myriad of options on the market for scanners, mills, software and everything in between? What if you get something that doesn’t play nicely with tools you already own?  Is there a way to make sense of all the different features and system differences?

Anybody who’s ever researched investing in a digital workflow solution for their dental lab knows all of the different terms. They also know how confusing these terms can be-how does one even begin to navigate the myriad of options on the market for scanners, mills, software and everything in between? What if you get something that doesn’t play nicely with tools you already own?  Is there a way to make sense of all the different features and system differences?

exocad is hoping it can provide some answers-or at least some guidance-through these thorny questions. “exocad is the only Dental CAD software company which offers true freedom of choice,” exocad America president Larry Bodony says. “exocad doesn’t make scanners or production equipment, so 100 percent of our company’s focus is to develop dental software to enable open scan, fabrication and material manufacturers to create systems that advance digital dentistry.

“[We] sell to resellers, who have complete freedom of choice to package, sell and support dental systems for labs and dentists,” Bodony continues. “End users have the freedom of choice to select any exocad reseller that best meets their technical, business and ongoing support requirements. 

A demo of the exocad software:

Options

Of course, the reason so many choices exist is because there are so many different needs from dental labs. Some labs might have a full digital workflow already up and running and are simply looking for a new software solution, while other labs might be exploring an initial entry into digital work-not to mention all of the labs somewhere in-between.

Bodony says exocad’s focus is to provide a way forward for labs, no matter what their needs are, which is why they work with a large number of resellers.

“There are three ways that labs can adapt [our software],” Bodony explains. “The first and most important is selecting the right reseller. Some labs want a complete turnkey solution, and many excellent exocad systems are available at incredibly low prices. Other labs want open, flexible solutions, and are willing to do some process engineering themselves, or utilize an existing scanner, CAM or mill. We have resellers that support one or both models. Second, all exocad systems can support scan-only, scan/design and scan/design/CAM software configurations, which allow labs to grow incrementally as business picks up. The third way is by purchasing add-on modules from your reseller, providing features as-needed by the lab. These reasonably priced modules include implants, bars, virtual articulation, bite splints, provisionals and next year, dentures. End users should shop for the right reseller, with the right level of support, for the options that they will need now and in the future.”

Next page: Should you opt for an open or a closed system?

Open or closed?

Bodony also sees the need to help explain to lab decision makers what exactly everyone means when they talk about “open” and “closed” systems. The terms are regularly used to describe CAD/CAM systems, but they can be very confusing. Bodony says exocad makes its software to fill the needs of labs who want “open” systems and labs who want “closed” systems. And he says knowing the difference will be the key in working with an exocad reseller to identify just what your lab needs. “‘Open’ means that your system accepts and operates on, and generates publicly defined non-encrypted data files,” Bodony says. “There is also the distinction of ‘input,’ which refers to scan data, and ‘output,’ which refers to the restorations produced by the CAD system.

“The answer for exocad is that we develop our system to be 100 percent open on input and output. However, this doesn’t mean fully open is the right solution for everyone. Labs that want a verified process or trust a particular brand or reseller may be happier with a turnkey system. Since there are so many business options available, it again comes down to making sure your reseller has the same business philosophy you do.”

Users are king

It’s all well and good to talk about the ins and outs and interoperability of software and CAD/CAM systems. But how does exocad actually work from a practical, ground-level, user’s perspective?

“In exocad, you don’t have to worry where the case comes from,” Bodony says. “You simply fill out the ‘database’ form, which describes the case. No matter what the situation, the database system works for all indications, even on both arches, and in many cases even for modules you don’t own.”

This means exocad prides itself on being a system that is user-friendly for all lab workers, no matter what their digital experience level might be.

“exocad’s ‘secret’ is software that creates a custom step-by-step wizard tool for any case you can describe,” Bodony notes. “The result is, we believe, the most intuitive program out there for beginner and intermediate lab technicians. For advanced users, they can bypass the wizard, to do daily tasks like fixing broken mesh, overriding specific parameters or even re-sculpting previously designed restorations after the fact.”

exocad also is committed to ensuring its software doesn’t quickly become out-of-date, a real concern in a time when technology advances so quickly that something can be cutting edge one day and obsolete the next. “exocad is committed to advancing digital dentistry,” Bodony says. “First of all, our licenses are perpetual, meaning that you actually own your exocad-based system and it will continue to function for as long as you own the system without additional cost. However, we do need to be profitable as we continue to develop features, so, after the one-year warranty period expires, exocad users can choose to pay an update fee to their reseller to receive the latest release.”

Bodony says, in the end, exocad is all about user experience, and he’s confident current users will help you know if an exocad system will be the right fit for your lab. “If you’re curious if exocad is for you,” Bodony suggests, “users can review our website, exocad.com, browse the various boards like Dental Lab Network, view YouTube videos or read the actual user documentation at wiki.exocad.com.”