A way to leave metal casting behind? [VIDEO]

August 21, 2014

Roy Dental Lab is a full service lab located in New Albany, Ind., just across the river from Louisville, Ky. The lab is family owned, and was started in 1972. The lab has 11 full-time dental technicians, and 13 total full-time employees.

Roy Dental Lab is a full service lab located in New Albany, Ind., just across the river from Louisville, Ky. The lab is family owned, and was started in 1972. The lab has 11 full-time dental technicians, and 13 total full-time employees.

The lab primarily works with private practice dentists, but also has a close relationship with the University of Louisville. Roy Dental Lab also works with many prosthodontists. The lab does everything from crown and bridge work to implants, and incorporates both traditional and digital tools in lab work. The laboratory works with around 70 dentists, both local and non-local. 

The Product: Selective Laser Melting (SLM) is among the most cost-effective and versatile option for metal ceramic crowns and long span bridges available today. The BegoPal+ Noble SLM material has an ultra-dense and stable microstructure that reportedly creates predictable results time and time again for technicians. BEGO, which has extensive experience in dental SLM technology since 2001, offers both BegoPal+ as an SLM option and also offers the Base metal Wirobond C+ as a non-precious SLM choice. 

Take a closer look: A leading SLM option

The Results: In February of 2013, Roy Dental Lab was looking for a new solution. They had decided they wanted to go with CAD/CAM for their PFM substructures, and they were looking for a partner who would help them get there. Naturally, they decided to look at all the available options at Lab Day Chicago. While at the show, they learned about the options offered by selective laser melting (SLM), which was being used by several companies to produce substructures. In such a workflow, a lab designs a file, submits it to an SLM partner who “prints” the substructure on an SLM system, and then the substructure is sent back to the lab for porcelain build-up. 

Roy Dental decided SLM was the right choice for them. In May 2013, they started talking to BEGO USA, which was beginning to ready the release of its SLM substructures to the larger market. “As BEGO came online, we began to send a couple of test cases, and we got great results,” remembers Travis Roy, CFO/COO of Roy Dental Lab. “Their ability to offer both precious alloys [like BegoPal+] and non-precious options was a big selling point, since most other companies only offered casting of precious materials. [Casting] wasn’t something that appealed with us, because with SLM we could do the design in house and then send it out.”

“The nice thing about SLM is you can do metal occlusal, you can do full cast,” Roy explains. “Warping from bridges is no longer an issue. You don’t have to worry about that anymore. You can have confidence that what you design, you will receive. Just like the computer, what you put in, you get out. That’s what BegoPal+ does: gives the confidence that what you send, you will receive, time after time after time.”

Initially, Roy was drawn to BEGO for their time commitments. “One of the main reasons we chose them was the turnaround time, but as we’ve worked with them more, they’re just a great group of people to work with,” Roy continues. “We’ve been working exclusively with them for over nine months, and they’ve been doing all our substructures that we outsource. If we don’t have to cast it, we don’t.”

Stephanie Tinsley, CDT and chief CAD/CAM designer at Roy Dental Lab, says much the same about BEGO’s SLM process. “Our turnaround time is down from two weeks to a week,” she explains. “After two days [at BEGO], it’s back in the lab where porcelain can be applied. It’s just a faster process than waiting for the casting process.”

Go deeper: Examining precious-free alloys

Roy Dental Lab uses BegoPal+ for most of their substructures. They like having a noble alloy as an option they can offer to their customers-and they like the results. “Most porcelain systems are compatible with this alloy,” Roy explains. “It’s a chrome cobalt alloy with palladium in it, which gives it a noble rating. Having a CTE that is consistent with most porcelain systems makes it a no-brainer.”

“The fit is awesome,” Tinsley adds. “I’ve had no issues with the fit on the dies. It eliminates a lot of variables from casting. It’s a very consistent product. As far as bridges go, we also use [BEGO] for multispan bridges, from a roundhouse down to a two-unit with printed wings attached. As long as you can design it, you can get it printed.

“We’ve had no issue with the metal, as long as you treat it properly. It’s a great material. I have heard no complaints. You really have to know by looking inside the crown to see if it’s cast or printed. We’ve had no fit issues at all.”

Also check out: 5 things you NEED to know about choosing an outsourcing partner

In addition to the excellent results, Tinsley and Roy are also pleased by the savings they’ve been able to see thanks to BEGO and BegoPal+. “There’s no variable in the cost,” Roy says. “It allows us to offer flat-rate pricing for our crowns, instead of a fee plus metal cost. That’s a very attractive thing because it allows us to consistently deliver a product to a doctor without them feeling like they’re subject to market forces.”

“Your waxing/casting/metal finishing labor dollars are freed to be used elsewhere in your lab,” Roy continues. “One area where bottlenecks in production can happen is in waxing. Now, we’re able to go from model room to porcelain room. The ROI is a higher quality product with a lesser labor intense product.”

This also enables Roy Dental Laboratory to unleash their employees’ knowledge, providing a value-add for current and potential dental clients. “The nice thing about what Stephanie does, she has an intimate knowledge of how copings need to be designed on a substructure basis, and that’s one of the things we offer our doctors-we’re not just having any person doing that,” Roy notes. “It allows me to utilize her labor dollars to the fullest extent, because she’s able to give her expertise and do exponentially more than if she was to sit and wax. It’s a tangible shift for the labor dollars in your lab. It’s also more productive with the same amount of people. We’ve been able to increase our production load as a lab 25-30 percent. We’re able to do more in the same amount of time and reallocate those time resources.”

Additionally, using BEGO as an outsourcing partner for SLM substructures means that BEGO really is a partner. And for Roy and Tinsley, that’s become what sets BegoPal+ apart the most. “BEGO’s commitment to being a leader in this industry and environment is a differentiator,” Roy says. “They’ve put [in] a lot of time, effort and resources and it shows.”

Tinsley echoes those sentiments. “Their tech support is outstanding,” she notes. “If you have any issues, call them up. They’ll help you on the computer and check your settings. It’s amazing.”

Don't miss: 5 reasons you don't need to be afraid of chairside CAD/CAM

In the end, all of these qualities make both BEGO and BegoPal+ for SLM substructures a no-brainer for Roy Dental Lab. “I know there’s a little learning curve, but you’re getting accustomed to the material,” Roy says. “BEGO has great resources and they’ll put you in touch with labs who have used the material and make sure that transition is as painless as possible. Once you do it, there’s no going back. It’s a lifesaver to us, and I love the fact I don’t have to do it in my lab. They have PhD’s in metal printing-how can I duplicate that in my 13-person lab? But for the cost of a coping, I get to take advantage of that. I get to leverage my technology dollars. Right now, SLM is the best that is out there.”