Mastering CAD? What next?

20 DentalLabTips to take your work to next level

Mastering CAD- 20 Invaluable Tips for Success
By Mario Dasca ·15th January,2024

Welcome! Reading time: 1900 words… 12min.

Hey there dental design enthusiasts!

So, you’ve got your CAD skills down – but guess what? The learning never stops in the world of computer-aided design (CAD).

We get it, you're busy crafting beautiful smiles, and we’ve got your back with some insider advice from the top dogs in the dental lab world.

So here they are!!

20 CAD tips that will not only elevate your designs but also make you the go-to guru in your dental lab.

Get comfy and enjoy your reading….

1. Get to Know Your CAD Tool Inside Out 💡

“Even if you think you know a tool pretty well, it's useful to occasionally review the 'help' area because it may have changed. There may be more features in your updated software or a user may have suggested a better way to simplify the design process for a restoration so it's added to [the wiki].

Larry Bodony, President of Exocad America

Alright, let’s start with the basics.

CAD is like a superhero suit – it’s powerful, but you need to know how to use it.

Don’t just dive in; get cosy with your CAD tool.

Understanding the nuances of your CAD system is crucial for optimal performance.

If you want to see the story behind Exocad here is a great video to binge-watch:

2. Embrace the Digital Shift 🤗

If you're feeling like a fish out of water transitioning from manual to digital, take a breath.

Transitioning from manual work to CAD/CAM might seem daunting, but Christopher Adamus, a dental technician and trainer for 3Shape Academy, suggests viewing it as a shift in tools rather than a complete change in skill set.

At the end of the day, you're just swapping your paintbrush for a mouse, and you are keeping your skill set.

Also, intuitive workflows can mimic traditional manual steps, ensuring a smoother transition.

3. Explore Hidden Software Gems 🔹

Think you know your CAD software inside-out?

Think again…

Mark Ferguson, Assistant Manager at Core3dcentres, highlights the importance of staying updated on software features - even the seasoned pros find hidden features in their software after years of use.

So, keep updating and attending those courses, because hidden gems equal new revenue streams.

Digital dentistry is a dynamic field, and staying informed is paramount.

Follow trade magazines, online channels, forums, and social media to keep abreast of industry trends.

Sign up for newsletters and get information sent directly to your mailbox. articles on industry news, trends, new system features and concrete tips and tricks for using its CAD/CAM systems.

And, lastly, continuously keep your system up to date with the latest software releases. This will automatically allow you to see, and experience firsthand, the most advanced technologies available today.

5. Training Is a Lifelong Commitment 🧠

Continuous training is the backbone of professional growth.

Attend webinars, hands-on sessions, and yearly updates to keep your skills sharp.
The more you know about your system, the better technician you become.

Make sure you allocate time for refreshing your designer talents and knowledge of CAD/CAM, including its latest opportunities. There are various ways to get training in the use of your system.

Make it a priority.

6. Upgrade Your Hardware and Software Wisely ⛔️

Ensure your hardware and software are up to date, but prioritise stability over the latest versions….

Companies even as big as 3Shape have been known to deploy a system that has bugs and can take up to 48 hours to fix a problem and you can’t afford to have 48 hours down!

Every speaker out there advises investing in stable versions and recommends assessing your computer hardware periodically for optimal performance.

And hey, if your computer is older than Windows XP, maybe it's time for a digital makeover.

7. Add some Bonus Features 👽

CAD allows technicians to add unique features to their designs, enhancing functionality and value.

By incorporating third-party applications, technicians can bring their creative ideas to life within the digital realm.

In the past, dental technicians could never incorporate their ideas or techniques into their design software.

Today, we can draw up our contours/geometries with external surfacing software and import these designs into our dental-specific CAD software, enabling dental technicians the freedom they are accustomed to, and with the right software, you can add extra sparkle to your designs.

8. Keep Pace with Software Advancements 🏃

Embrace software updates as they continue to simplify CAD design.

If you are confident they are stable and nobody has complained about them online two weeks after the update give them a try – they’re your friend and they make CAD design a breeze.

Remember software is here to make your job easier and results better.

Software advancements have driven better results about CAD design, making the process of designing a full contour so predictable, today.

9. Quality Scans for Quality Results 🪄 

A good scan is the foundation of a successful restoration.

Exocad America President, Larry Bodony emphasizes the importance of verifying scan data quality early in the process to avoid complications later on.

Your CAD wizardry is only as good as your initial scan. Don’t push forward with a bad scan; go back and get it right.
You can only work with the tools and resources you have. No matter how powerful the CAD software is, if you don’t have a good initial scan, the final restoration will suffer.

Remember, garbage in, garbage out.

10. Thoroughly Inspect Your Outputs 🔎

“AND at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

James C. Collins - Good To Great Author

We recommend a meticulous inspection of your final results, as seemingly minor issues can escalate over time.

Use your CAD software to identify and address the root causes of any discrepancies. Your CAD masterpiece is only complete when it's flawless.

Look for faults, no matter how small, and nip them in the bud.

Consistency is the key to high-quality results.

11. Understand Your Scan Sources 🚎

“Know your different scan sources and partners and their technologies and limitations. For example, an intraoral scan can be significantly different (especially in the area around the margin) versus a prepared plaster model scanned with a desktop scanner.”

Robin Provost, EVP of software development at Dental Wings

Not all scans are created equal, and the difference between an intraoral scanner and a scan created from a stone model with a desktop scanner can be crucial if not disclosed.

Educate your partners for better communication and try to have them understand the potential impact on the final restoration.

12. Be Aware of Workflows 🚧

Understanding the full spectrum of your CAD software's capabilities is crucial.

Provost advises staying informed about all available workflows and updates to ensure you're leveraging your CAD/CAM system to its maximum potential.

Don't miss out on functionalities that could make your life easier.

Also, check for integrations and connectivity to other open platforms that can benefit your lab’s workflows.

13. Mind Your Data Flows 👨‍💻

Efficient data management is essential in a digital workflow.

We encourage technicians to be aware of where their digital data is stored and its traceability, emphasizing compliance with regulations regarding data privacy protection.

Data is the lifeblood of CAD systems, and correct data management is crucial for compliance.

It’s also vital to be using any form of digital accountability that you can and advise always to be using lab software that each member of your team logs in to comment on or adjust the status of a job that is being worked on.

Digital accountability will become critical in the future and you should start investigating this sooner. If you want to get a secret tip for this just respond to this email with the line “Secret tip”.

14. Know Your Manufacturing and Materials 🧱

Understanding the capabilities and limitations of your system includes both manufacturing processes and materials.

Be the master of your domain.

Before diving into new materials or software modules, ensure there's a solid manufacturing solution in place.

15. Practice, Practice, Practice 🏋️‍♂️

“Fail often to succeed sooner”

David Kelley, Author of Fail Fast

Someone might think that simply by using a high-tech system, the computer does everything and every piece coming out will be perfect. While that is a nice thing to hear, it is simply not the case.

Like crafting a case by hand, it takes repetition to improve skills.

Once a case is done, don’t call it a day.
Review your work to improve your skills.
CAD doesn't make you flawless. It's all about practice.

Make mistakes, learn, and continuously improve.

After all, practice makes perfect.

16. Be a Dental Consultant 🧑‍⚕️ 

Position yourself as a valuable resource by offering formal consultancy services to dentists and other industry players.

Your skills and knowledge make you a unique asset in the evolving dental landscape, a goldmine.

Services are not the only revenue-generating stream, but skills are too.

Share them with dentists, labs, and everyone in the industry, positioning yourself as a leader in the field.

17. Collaborate with Peers 🤝 

In a digitally connected world, maintaining constant contact with fellow technicians can provide valuable support and insights when faced with challenges.

Don't be a lone wolf.

Connect with fellow CAD enthusiasts, share your knowledge, and be open to seeking help when needed.

We're all on this digital journey together.

18. Leverage Support Channels 🎧️ 

Know your support squad.

Identify and utilize available support channels for your CAD system. It is very important to know who has your back – whether it's your software vendor, manufacturer, or fellow CAD comrades.

When the going gets tough, your support network is your lifeline.

19. Join Online Communities & build relationships 🧑‍🤝‍🧑 

Tap into the vast knowledge-sharing potential of online communities.

Use platforms like Facebook, with groups to connect with peers, creating a valuable support network.

Share your experiences, seek advice, and be part of a digital tribe. The internet never sleeps, and neither do your fellow CAD enthusiasts.

Also, connect with designers, equipment experts, and software wizards. You never know when you'll need a friendly tip or a solution to a CAD conundrum.

20. Enhance Lab-Practice Communications 🗣️ 

Lastly, don't forget the magic of improved communication.
Embrace the digital revolution….
Communicate in real-time…..
And watch your relationships flourish.

Make sure you utilise this unique opportunity made possible by digital technology, 3D models and state-of-the-art Dental Lab Software.

Communicate with your dentist clients whenever possible.

It’s easy. And it can help ensure optimal results while strengthening relationships with your customers.

The elimination of analogue impressions, shipping and handling, breakage, remakes and much more should not be underestimated.
Likewise, the benefits of sharing 3D files & treatment plans digitally, in real-time, discussing cases and editing restorations on your PC, are invaluable.

Your location no longer matters you’re digital.

Mastering CAD goes beyond software proficiency; it's a holistic approach encompassing continuous learning, collaboration, and staying attuned to industry trends.

As you navigate the digital dental landscape, remember that every click, design, and collaboration contributes to your evolution as a CAD technician.

Happy designing!

Extra Resources Roundup

What did you think of today's email?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Thank you for staying connected with Dental Lab Tips.  We look forward to bringing you more exciting updates from the world of dental technology.