2013 marked another breakthrough year of advancement for technology’s maturation cycle in the dental industry. The industry witnessed the introduction of new or advanced iterations of scanning, milling, and CAD design equipment, and many of this year’s innovations were significant add-on improvements and upgrades to existing technologies.
The maturity of technology is measured in part by its evolutionary progression to a system—or set of systems—that are intuitive and easy to use by the operator and perform without significant problems in the production cycle. Certainly, almost all of the technological developments being utilized by dental technologists in the automated phases of restorative product manufacturing have reached this point in the maturity cycle. Today, there is a deeper understanding of scanning and milling technology and how best to integrate automated steps into the production workflow.
Now the emphasis is focused on developmental advances that refine and expand the functionality of existing technologies to meet industry demands for new solutions and more convenience. This year, manufacturers introduced more user-friendly, expanded-function CAD hardware equipment and software modules and expanded CAM milling capabilities, while reducing the size and price of the equipment to provide access to smaller businesses. Also this year, the explosive expansion of increasingly compact digital impression capture technologies that are less expensive, faster, smaller, and less cumbersome to use promises to help accelerate the adoption curve of digital workflows for both the dental office and the laboratory.
Much still needs to be accomplished to reduce or eliminate the analog steps that are disruptive to a fully automated production process. It is a journey that will move forward at a rate commensurate with the industry’s level of adoption and transition from analog to digital processes. We look forward to the new innovations and solutions 2014 brings.