Going Digital

A Ceramics has fully embraced the digital future of dentistry in its bridge, crown and implant manufacturing business and made gains in accuracy, quality and consistency that have left owner Alan Bamford hugely optimistic about the future.

In its Oldham laboratory, A Ceramics runs two Roland DWX-50 milling machines making dental restorations for practices throughout the UK. This in-house production allows them to quickly, easily and precisely mill wax for bonded and pressed work, and mill zirconia and PMMA (acrylic) for full contour crowns, temporary bridges and implant stents.

“I saw straight away that the cost-effective Roland machine would enable me to produce good quality restorations, consistently and accurately,” says Alan. “In business, you only go backwards or forwards, standing still is not an option. Digital is the way forward almost everywhere you look and dentistry is no different.”

A Ceramics opened for business 18 years ago when Alan left the dental lab he had been working in to take control of his own future and produce a superior job at a better price. Now he employs five people who proudly deliver a professional product with a high level of customer service, something the Roland machines have been critical for.

“Consistency – that is what my customers want and that is what I want. And the Roland machines achieve that. Working from CAD/CAM designs made by the team, these precision pieces of machinery will achieve the same results, over and over, time after time and at the push of a button,” says Alan.

Digital milling has saved time and money in the design and manufacture process for A Ceramics. The company can mill large-span bridge frameworks in PMMA for the surgeon to try in the patient’s mouth before the final is milled out of zirconia, which saves on expensive remakes for design adjustments. They can also design a case on the computer and email the design to the surgeon for approval prior to manufacturing, or flag up any potential errors in the order information they receive, such as dragged impressions, large undercuts or unclear margins before the restorations go into manufacture.

“It takes seconds to alter the design if necessary and once the surgeon’s happy the Roland will mill the exact design from the final material,” he says.

The Roland DWX-50 is a five-axis machine which means it will mill undercuts, which was critical to Alan’s decision to choose Roland and his confidence that if he can design it, the Roland can mill it.

“It has managed every shape I have ever tried. I used to hate producing temporary bridges but now I can just design them on the software, press a button and the machine produces them –that’s it, when it comes out its almost finished, you just cut it off and polish it.”

Before going digital, A Ceramics’ workload was split between 60 per cent private and 40 per cent NHS. Now it does 75 per cent private and 25 per cent NHS and clients regularly comment on the ease of fit and the consistency of the work.

Previously, the frameworks were laboriously handmade throughout the day by Alan and his team of skillful technicians to be ready for the next day.  But with the Roland’s, half of their workload is constructed through the day and the other half are milled through the night. Roland’s milling machines are fully automated and designed to be left unattended to efficiently complete their work. This allows A Ceramics to become more responsive and accommodate urgent jobs more easily.

“They are still ready for the next day but it just makes life a lot easier,” says Alan. “Over night we can leave one running zirconia and the other wax and come in the morning and they’re both ready for the next stage of processing. Now 99.9 per cent of everything is done with our Roland’s and my customers have really noticed the difference.”

Having accepted that the future was digital but with no previous experience of the technology, Alan said the learning curve was not as challenging as anticipated and only six months later he had purchased his second Roland DWX-50.

Despite initial apprehensions from staff that the machines would replace them, the team now realizes the remarkable difference technology has made to the business which has actually secured their positions and provided them with valuable new skills.

Roland’s patient and attentive support staff also help smooth the transition to digital, according to Alan.

“Roland’s back up service has been superb and they were always there to help as we got to grips with the machine. Being new to digital dentistry we have made occasional mistakes but it’s been reassuring to know that Roland has been on the end of the phone to help or available to visit,” he says.

Roland’s milling machines are open systems with no licenses to pay and no tie in with a materials supplier. Being able to shop around on the open market, where prices can differ sharply, helps keep Roland users as competitive and profitable as possible.

“I am sure that they have noticed the price reduction on our zirconia units because we are receiving so many more now,” says Alan.

Looking further into the future, Alan is keen to integrate his milling set-up with dentists’ surgical oral scanners to further speed up the process and accuracy of the operation. “The system is ready and we are waiting for the dentists to catch us up,” says Alan. “And thanks to the Roland we will be ready to answer their questions when they arise. Without any shadow of a doubt the Roland milling machines are the best business decision I ever made.”

For more information about Roland’s DWX-50 dental milling machine and to watch Alan’s full video testimonial, visit www.rolanddg.co.uk/ACeramics.