How dental labs can increase productivity & lower costs with a Manufacturing OS

07.05.2022

A growing number of machines, repetitive manual tasks, and hiccups slowing down production. These obstacles are commonly faced by dental laboratories today – and they significantly hinder growth. Our Manufacturing Operating System (OS) reduces the pressure on your team, increases productivity and maximises production capacity with intelligent automation. In a four-part blog series, we show you how Oqton achieves this.

Dental laboratories have undergone a profound transformation in the last twenty years. Technological innovation has revolutionised the profession, with artisanal production like the lost wax casting method being replaced by 3D printing and CNC milling.

These advancements have birthed new setbacks for dental labs. Here are some that you’ll be familiar with if you work in the industry:

  • Fast and flexible production. Dentistry is burgeoning and competition is fierce. To stand out, dental laboratories need to provide a fast, high-quality, and highly customised service.
  • Staff shortages. Dental technicians are highly educated individuals that are increasingly hard to find, and the available ones are forced to do repetitive tasks.
  • The regulatory obligation of traceability. From 2021, dental labs in the EU must work within the Medical Devices Regulations, which require total lifecycle traceability between all stages of medical device development and post-market activities. As a result, you must be able to demonstrate the traceability of every item you produce.
  • Icons for Increasingly Fast And Flexible Production, Resource Constraints and Obligation of Traceability

    Quite some requirements for dental laboratories to meet! But that’s where we can help. Oqton’s Manufacturing OS comes with a host of automated workflows for common dental processes, taking away the stress from your lab.

    What is our Manufacturing OS and what can it do for a dental laboratory business?

    Oqton is a platform that brings together three pieces of technology common in manufacturing that together provide everything that a dental lab needs.

  • At its core, Oqton is a manufacturing execution system (MES), a comprehensive piece of software for planning your dental laboratory production. The MES enables you to schedule your job, track its progress, and analyse the workflow.
  • We use the industrial internet of things (IIOT) to monitor all the machines involved in production. You can see which machine is building, follow the machines on a camera feed, and access a dashboard of all the crucial parameters allowing you to anticipate problems. Machine monitoring also enables you to prevent issues and to react quickly to machine downtime, with easy-to-view live status reports.
  • The third component is computer-aided manufacturing (CAM). Whether you’re 3D printing a bridge, or CNC milling zirconia discs to create crowns, it’s crucial to get the right files for the job. Our Manufacturing OS prepares the files for the machines and its AI capabilities provide a fully automated file conversion, file fixing, part orientation, part labelling, and high-density nesting.
  • These three technologies allow us to support you in every step of the production process. To make sure the files are easy to access, store, backup and dynamically scale computer power we’ve made Oqton a cloud-based software. If you’re a bigger lab, that has multiple locations, having cloud software means that your files are accessible from anywhere, including from all your different sites of production.

    Diagram of Iot, AI and Cloud for Dental, Medical and Orthodontics

    The general flow in Oqton’s Manufacturing OS

    Now that we’ve explained the technology, we can delve into the details of production. In a dental laboratory, everything starts with your order, which is automatically prepared in our Manufacturing OS, and scheduled across your machine park. Then we turn to the monitoring system which will tell us which machines are available so you can pick the right one. Long-term monitoring also allows you to see how the machines are behaving, anticipate problems and plan the right maintenance. Finally, because every step you do is documented, the requirement for full traceability is easily met.

    How were we able to develop a Manufacturing OS that automates your workflows? Oqton’s team has decades of advanced manufacturing experience with some of the brightest minds in artificial intelligence, machine learning, design, reverse engineering, 3D CAD, and robotics. The expertise of globally respected scientists plays a crucial role in developing and continuously updating the platform.

    Dental workflow in Oqton (Order, Prepare, Schedule, Monitor, Analyze and Trace)

    Future-proofing your dental laboratory

    Our platform comes with a range of automated workflows for common dental applications – from crown metal printing to producing clear aligners – and they’re only going to improve with time! Our team regularly works on updates, which are released every two weeks, to address requests submitted by our users.

    Thanks to the automated workflows, your dental laboratory can significantly reduce its manpower needs, and achieve a high return on investment. Our customers say they easily get back the money they invested in the Manufacturing OS, and other factors, such as reduced material usage and waste, add to the savings.

    In the next three blog posts in this series, we’ll take a closer look at how our Manufacturing OS helps automate workflows for crown milling, 3D printed dental models and clear aligners.

    Find out what we can do for your dental business, and send us a message for more information!