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What Makes them Different?
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What Makes Them Different?
By Mario Dasca · 13th Nov, 2023
Welcome! Reading time: 2200 words… 16 min.
Welcome to our comprehensive guide on choosing your next dental scanner.
The integration of digital technology into dentistry has ushered in a new era of efficiency, precision, and quality in dental laboratory operations.
The advent of CAD/CAM systems, driven by 3D dental scanners, has revolutionised the fabrication of dental appliances, ensuring timely delivery and consistent quality.
In this edition, we unravel the intricacies of choosing the right 3D dental scanner, particularly the desktop variety, to enhance laboratory productivity.
Also, understanding the landscape of dental CAD systems is crucial before delving into the specifics of scanners.
Broadly, in Europe and the USA, you have a choice of four complete dental CAD systems: Dental Wings, 3Shape, inLab, and Exocad. Exocad, available as a private-label version for systems like Zirkon Zahn, Amann Girrbach, and Nobel Biocare, stands out by offering CAD software separately from the scanner.
But we’ll touch on this a bit later…
Let’s see now what makes the scanners different….
1. Light Source
Dental lab scanners use various light sources to capture accurate and detailed images of dental models or impressions. The most common types of light sources include structured light (often in the form of lasers or LED lights) and laser light.
The choice of light source can impact the scanning process in terms of accuracy, speed, and overall performance
Structured Light (Lasers or LED):
Principle: Structured light systems project a specific pattern (grid or linear) onto the surface of the object being scanned. The distortion of the projected light pattern on the object is captured by cameras, and triangulation is used to calculate the distance to specific points on the object, creating a detailed 3D model.
Allows scanning in open spaces, making it practical for various applications.
Provides precise and detailed scans.
Commonly used in modern dental lab scanners.
Variation Across Manufacturers:
The choice between lasers and LED lights as the light source may vary. Both have their advantages, and some manufacturers may prefer one over the other.
Some companies may market specific colours of light (e.g., blue light) as beneficial over others, although the actual impact of colour on performance is a debated topic.
Principle: Some scanners use laser light as their source, projecting laser beams onto the object's surface. The distortion caused by the object's surface is recorded and processed to generate a 3D model.
Laser systems can offer high precision.
Generally cooler operating temperature and longer shelf life for LED light sources.
Variation Across Manufacturers:
The choice of laser technology may depend on factors like cost, system design, and the specific requirements of the scanner.
Blue Light vs. White Light:
Principle: Structured light systems can project either blue or white light patterns onto the object being scanned.
Variation Across Manufacturers:
Some companies may market one colour as superior, but the actual differences are often debated within the industry.
The choice between blue and white light might be influenced by factors like the scanner's design, the intended application, and the preferences of the manufacturer.
Class Winner: Medit T-Series- Light Source: structured light technology.
Medit T Series
Quality ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
The average megapixels needed for a dental lab scanner to produce high-quality 3D models typically falls within the range of 5 to 20 megapixels. However, it's essential to note that the necessary resolution can vary based on the specific applications and requirements of the dental lab. Here's a breakdown:
For general dental applications, such as crown and bridge manufacturing, a scanner with a resolution of around 5 to 10 megapixels is often sufficient to achieve accurate and detailed scans.
If the dental lab is involved in more intricate restorations, such as implant cases or full arch reconstructions, opting for a scanner with a higher resolution in the range of 10 to 20 megapixels may be beneficial.
The required resolution also depends on factors like the size of the scanned objects, the level of detail needed, and the overall precision demanded by the specific dental applications.
Technology and Features:
It's important to consider not only the megapixel count but also the overall technology, features, and scanning methodology employed by the scanner, as these elements contribute to the scanner's ability to produce high-quality 3D models.
Manufacturers often provide recommendations based on the intended use of their scanners, helping users choose an appropriate level of resolution for their specific needs.
So, higher accuracy comes at a cost.
But does your lab need it? Remember that the average day-to-day crown& bridge only needs a 5 to 10-megapixel scanning accuracy.
3Shape F8 Series
Quality ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Scanner speeds vary, but the differences are marginal.
Speed ratings are often presented based on a "light" scanning strategy, emphasising rougher scan data.
However, speed is one of the least critical factors in the decision-making process
What sets them apart here is based on what they can scan.
For example, only some scanners can easily scan a full-size semi-adjustable articulator.
Only some will scan in colour.
Only some are capable of more accurately scanning impressions.
Only some have add-ons that allow transferring specific articulator settings into the CAD software.
When selecting a scanner ensure that you’ve fully evaluated the capacities of the scanner beyond standard processes and that again these fit into your day-to-day lab routine and applications.
Shinning AutoScan DS-EX
Quality ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
5. Build quality and support
Materials and Construction: The build quality of dental lab scanners is influenced by the materials used in their construction. High-quality scanners often feature robust materials that contribute to durability and longevity.
Component Quality: The quality of individual components, such as the scanning hardware, cameras, and moving parts, plays a crucial role in the overall build quality. Well-manufactured components contribute to reliable performance.
Durability: A high-quality build ensures durability, reducing the likelihood of malfunctions or wear and tear over time. This is particularly important given the frequent usage of dental lab scanners in a professional setting.
Warranties: The duration and terms of the warranty provided by the manufacturer can be indicative of the confidence they have in the build quality of their scanners. Longer warranties are often associated with higher-quality products.
Support for Dental Lab Scanners:
Effective technical support is crucial for addressing any issues or queries related to the scanner. Manufacturers with dedicated technical support teams contribute to a positive user experience.
Comprehensive training programs offered by the manufacturer ensure that users are well-equipped to operate the scanner efficiently. Training can cover hardware and software aspects, optimizing the scanner's capabilities.
Regular software updates provided by the manufacturer demonstrate a commitment to improving scanner performance, addressing bugs, and incorporating new features. Up-to-date software contributes to the longevity of the scanner.
When considering a dental lab scanner, it's beneficial to explore user reviews, manufacturer reputation, and the specifics of the support and warranty offerings. Additionally, consulting with peers in the dental industry can provide valuable insights into real-world performance and support experiences with different scanners.
3 Shape- known for producing high-quality dental scanners. Also known for offering comprehensive technical support and training programs for its products.
Medit T Series- known for reliable build quality, technical support and training programs.
Dental Wings 7 Series- are generally built with durability in mind. Dental Wings is also known for its training programmes and customer support.
Dental Wings by Straumann
Quality ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
6. Type of integration with CAD
When it comes to dental scanners, the integration with Computer-Aided Design (CAD) is a pivotal aspect that influences the overall workflow and user experience.
Interdependent Integration (AKA Closed Systems):
Many manufacturers opt for an interdependent integration, where the scanner and CAD processes are tightly intertwined. In this model, the software bundled with the scanner not only manages scanning workflows and performance but is also an integral part of the CAD solution. Notable systems like 3Shape, Dental Wings, and In-Lab follow this approach.
Implications: Users of such systems find themselves committed to a closed ecosystem, unable to use one component without the other. The scanner and CAD are sold as a unified package, fostering seamless integration but limiting flexibility.
Independent Integration (AKA Open Systems):
A notable exception to the interdependent model is exemplified by Exocad CAD. In this scenario, Exocad takes a unique stance by offering CAD software that stands completely independent from both the scanner hardware and software.
Technical Autonomy: Exocad collaborates with a diverse range of scanner manufacturers, ensuring validated workflows. The beauty of this independent integration lies in the fact that the CAD and scanner operate 100% independently of each other.
Flexibility and Advantages: This autonomy provides users with remarkable flexibility. For instance, if a decision is made to switch scanners, it can be seamlessly executed without necessitating a change in the Exocad CAD. Moreover, users might opt for an independent scanner to deviate from standard CAD scan processes, allowing for more personalised workflows.
In conclusion, the integration approach plays a pivotal role in the user's experience with dental scanners.
Understanding all of these differences helps you make that informed decision when choosing your next lab scanner.
The best in the class here is obviously, EXOCAD. He just plays nice with everyone. Choosing an independent scanner will help you in terms of the Annual Fees, but will talk about that below.
8. Scan file type
The file types generated during the scanning process significantly impact the usability and accessibility of scan data.
When scanners initially capture data, they create scan data in native or proprietary formats known as a "point cloud." Subsequently, during the meshing stage, this raw data is processed and transformed into a more refined form.
That’s where things get different….
In closed systems like 3Shape and ITero, the meshed data is often confined to a proprietary format. This limitation poses challenges when users seek to utilize the scan data beyond the specific scanner/CAD workflow.
Conversely, scanners integrated with Exocad CAD, like Medit and Shinning adopt an open approach. Users can mesh the data and export it in widely recognized open formats such as STL, PLY, or OBJ. This openness ensures that the scan data is not confined to a proprietary environment.
The paramount consideration is evident: when opting for a closed workflow system, it is imperative to confirm that the system allows the export of scan data in open file formats like STL, PLY, or OBJ. They might charge you extra for it, though. 😔
This flexibility becomes especially crucial when collaborating with manufacturing partners and any external collaborators.
Class Winner: ANY OPEN SYSTEM Scanner
9. Annual License Fees
Escaping the clutches of annual license fees for your scanner and software is remarkably straightforward.
The key lies in selecting a scanner seamlessly integrated with Exocad CAD. Among the primary scanner suppliers affiliated with Exocad, the perk is clear – zero annual fees for both the scanner and its accompanying software.
Contrastingly, if you opt for a bundled solution like 3Shape, Dental Wings, or In-Lab, where the scanner and CAD form an inseparable duo, brace yourself for mandatory annual fees encompassing both components.
The catch? If the fees go unpaid, it's not just your CAD software facing a shutdown; your scanner takes an involuntary hiatus too.
Now, the Exocad advantage shines through.
With two flexible options for their CAD software packages, one of them generously offers the freedom to choose whether to embrace or forgo annual license fees. This means you retain control over your investment, deciding the terms that best align with your preferences and budget.
Choose wisely, and let your scanner work seamlessly without the burden of compulsory annual fees.
The best in the class: I’ll take the NO LICENCE one’s anytime
10. Initial Cost
It seems that pricing has found stability lately.
Trying to find out the price of the scanner only it can be challenging with big names such as 3Shape, Dental Wings and In-Lab, because their systems are sold as a complete solution, with software included.
If you are looking for a scanner-only solution to add to your already systemised CadCam department, you are probably looking at a price range of £5000-£15000.
If a full solution is what you are looking for, a scanner and software, then your initial investment could vary anywhere from £12000 to £30000, depending on the system/s you opt-in for.
Choosing a lab scanner involves navigating a multitude of variables.
I am sorry to say that we couldn’t find a universal "best" scanner to propose to you; the key is finding one that aligns with your unique needs.
Stay tuned for upcoming editions as we continue to explore advancements in dental technology.
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