Going Digital

IW Dental Laboratory was set up in 2009 by Ian Woolley after working and heading up various laboratories both here and in South Africa. Ian came to the UK from South Africa in 1993 and after working in London moved down to the South West where he has built a strong reputation as one of the regions leading laboratory owners. The new Laboratory is completely private with the focus firmly on high quality work and superb service, underpinned by a strong belief in the ‘Open Digital’ future for Dentistry.

The laboratory is split into two distinct areas. On one side are the familiar benches with the technical staff working away on applying porcelain to a variety of metal and ceramic substructures. On the other side are the scanners and milling machine that produce practically all the substructures.

Ian continues, ‘I have been involved with Digital Dentistry since the early days when models were sent off to milling centers to be designed and milled away from the Laboratory. I have always been interested in it and firmly believe it is the only way forward, especially now the open systems are making it far more affordable. We have been a registered Platinum Straumann Laboratory for some time, with our own in-lab scanner, and recently we invested in a Dental Wings scanner and Roland DWX-50 Milling machine.

The demands of our clients are always changing and we needed to be able to achieve the highest quality results, quicker and cheaper. The time saved using the open scanner and milling machine has made a big difference to the lab. The team is finding deadlines easier to hit and are much more relaxed and able to concentrate on doing great porcelain work. 

It certainly promotes a great environment in which to work in. We have adapted to a new work routine to take the DWX-50 into account. Our implant work and full arch non-precious bridgework is still done mainly on the Etkon scanner although we do offer a full range of implants, using both systems. The Dental Wings scanner and DWX-50 do all the copings and bridge substructures. They are used to provide the patterns for Gold Crowns and emax pressed units in wax and also do the acrylic temporaries and zirconia copings and crowns, so we save a lot of money too. We are currently testing two implant packages and as the DWX 50 is a 5-Axis machine, we will soon be able to mill all our implants and abutments in-house’.

There was a short learning curve and some early teething problems. We were one of the first labs in the country to take one of the new 5-Axis machines and CAM was completely new to us, so that was bound to be the case. I can say that the support from Roland has been nothing short of superb, they respond to every query quickly. They also organize valuable training days with the company that provides the software, Sum3D.’ 

It is clear to see that all the Technicians in the lab are happy with the new technology. With growing financial pressures on labs it would be understandable for resentment to show toward the new set up given it could be seen as a ‘human’ Technician replacement. Laboratory Manager, Russell Jackson is quick to point out this has not been the case. ‘No, in fact it has been quite the opposite. They all love the fact they are under less time pressure and get great substructures to work on every time. Also the fact we are embracing technology keeps us all up to date as these new developments can only help us in the future’.

Ian is clearly not content with his current situation and the desire to take advantage of technology to help his business develop is as strong now as ever. ‘We have been involved with the Straumann/Dental Wings testing and we have just bought the Dental Wings chrome base design software which we will be trying soon. I just don’t want to be left behind, and with more and more of our clients interested in going digital we now have the facility as a lab to take intra-oral digital scans and process them. We want to be in pole position to meet this new demand as it grows. I believe that we are.’