How dental labs automate milling with an intelligent Manufacturing OS


July 15, 20224 minute read

The mainstay of many dental productions is CNC milling, a manufacturing technology used to make crowns, bridges and abutments. The demand for milling is high, but staff needed for these jobs are few and far between. In fact, today’s labour market is going through a great shortage of dental technicians and many are expected to retire.

With staff in short supply, the pressure on existing technicians is mounting. The bigger, more successful dental labs need to operate like well-oiled machines to deliver orders on time. This involves a strict schedule, with staff required to process an exact number of parts or files per day.

But a closer look at the production reveals ample opportunity to turn things around. Many of the manual tasks that technicians perform are repetitive and time-consuming, and information they need is scattered across different locations. In such environments, a digital all-in-one platform, with extensive automation capabilities is a game-changer.

Dental technicians working in a laboratory

Despite the widespread shortage of dental technicians, dental labs are successfuly meeting new demand thanks to Oqton’s software

With this in mind, Oqton developed a unique, intelligent Manufacturing OS for dental production. Its infrastructure is built on state-of-the-art AI models that automate most production workflows you’ll find in a dental lab, including various tasks in CNC milling.

This has already resulted in immense time savings. French dental prosthetics company Crown Ceram is one such example. Founded 40 years ago as a family business, by the end of 2019 they grew into a production centre with eight milling machines, five 3D printers for resin and three metal 3D printers. In the Manufacturing OS, they found a single solution that enabled them to increase productivity and take on increasingly complex projects.

How AI automates milling

So what does milling with the Manufacturing OS actually look like? To understand this, let's examine one of the most common applications for CNC milling – crowns and bridges. With the Manufacturing OS, all these steps are automated:

1. Importing files: You can import up to 53 file formats and our Manufacturing OS will automatically repair any errors in the files.

2. Feature detection: Oqton’s AI automatically identifies the part it’s processing, whether it is a single coping crown or bridge with multiple elements. Oqton will also map out the features, such as the margin lines and the proximal surfaces.

3. Orientation: Nowadays, many dental technicians manually orient their parts, but with the Manufacturing OS, parts are automatically oriented, scaled and positioned in stock, minimizing undercuts and respecting tool axis limitations.

Zirconia disc

The Manufacturing OS automatically finds the right disc in your stock

4. Stock selection & nesting: Sorting through a stock of new and used discs can be tremendously time consuming, especially in larger production centers. In the Manufacturing OS, the right disc is automatically selected depending on colour, thickness and how much used material is available. The software will also automatically nest the crowns and the bridges for you.

5. Pin generation: The Manufacturing OS generates pins automatically in line with industry standards, but it also allows you to choose your preferred settings. The software also learns from users decisions and applies them to future jobs.

6. Tool path generation: The Manufacturing OS calculates toolpaths and generates the necessary NC files. Based on feature detection, milling templates are automatically assigned, thereby optimizing machining efficiency.

These automation capabilities are already saving dental labs time, and allowing them to increase output. And the best part is they don’t have to compromise the quality of their product or invest hundreds and thousands of euros into new machines.

Automated nesting in Oqton

Learn more about Oqton for dental

Aside from CNC milling, the Manufacturing OS automates other common workflows in dental production. Learn more about this platform in our blog post How dental labs can increase productivity & lower costs with a Manufacturing OS. We also help organizations get more out of their metal printing machines and streamline production of a clear aligner ecosystem. Read more to find out.

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