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An Interview with Flemming Thorup
Inside Dental Technology (IDT): As the industry moves ever closer to a digital landscape, how do you see the role of the dental laboratory evolving?
Flemming Thorup (FT): We view the laboratory today and in the future not simply as a production center for restorative products but as a solution provider and service center for dental clients. There is a strong bond between the laboratory and the dentist that will only grow in importance as we move forward. As a provider of technology solutions for the dental profession, 3Shape’s commitment is to develop the tools that both sides need to create a more successful restoration for the patient and that strengthen the dentist/laboratory relationship with systems that bring business opportunities to both parties.
IDT: Technology is evolving at such a rapid pace. How do you propose to keep abreast of all the material, hardware, and software developments and still provide tools that will keep dental professionals competitive and profitable?
FT: First, our scanning and software technology was developed with flexibility in mind so that we can react efficiently to new technological developments. We stay in touch with our users throughout the industry and apply their feedback to our products. This keeps our technology relevant to laboratories of all types and sizes. We also continually focus on new products that are coming on the market to further facilitate digitization of the profession. That includes new materials development, hardware, and software as well as output devices. By staying ahead of these future innovations, we have developed a rich patent portfolio of groundbreaking solutions that allow us to customize and refine our technology to a particular market and customer. The ability to react to market changes will become increasingly important as we move forward. It is our strong, long-term commitment as a technology provider that safeguards the relationship between the dentist and laboratory, and supplier. Successful innovation is only successful if it moves and is guided in directions that truly benefit professionals in their daily work.
IDT: 3Shape brought a new business model to the market that has proven quite successful. What prompted this approach and what do you bring to the relationship that keeps it growing at such a fast pace?
FT: Before entering the dental space, we began as a solution provider for the hearing aid industry and were quite successful in converting the suppliers and laboratories of that industry to digital tools. When we looked at the dental industry we saw many similarities and early on tried to figure out where our competencies would benefit the most. It was obvious to us that our scanning technology was appropriate for the production processes being used and there was a good opportunity to develop more user-appropriate software. Most of the earlier scanner manufacturers offered proprietary systems. Our approach from the start was to understand the needs of all the players in the dental market and to offer technology that companies could use as a part of their solutions. As a result, we have developed strong relationships with many dental supply companies as well as laboratory groups. Our commitment to our partners is that we will continue to develop new “timeless” tools and capabilities so our users are secure in knowing that they will stay competitive and business-strong today and in the future.
IDT: Certainly, 3Shape has lived up to its commitment as a strong developer of new digital tools and capabilities. What can we expect to see from 3Shape in the future?
FT: We invest heavily in innovation and can proudly boast a very large force of developers dedicated to the development of 3D scanning and CAD/CAM technologies. 2011 was a strong innovative year for our company, and the industry can continue to expect further innovation in 2012. This year we announced and showcased our new digital intraoral scanner, the TRIOS, and have just released our new software module, Dental System 2012. With these two new product releases we have facilitated the digital process from the operatory to the laboratory. We believe the TRIOS will be implemented quite successfully in dental clinics over the next few years. Our Dental Systems 2012 includes special software that allows laboratories to directly use scan data from TRIOS systems. The Dental System 2012 brings new capabilities to the laboratory such as the model-building tool for outputting model data for printing or milling, a tool for creating digitized temporaries and diagnostic wax-ups, as well as a communication tool for real-time communication between the operatory and laboratory. We believe the future for dental laboratories lies in widening the scope of their expertise and cooperation within the entire dental chain.
IDT: We have talked in depth about 3Shape’s commitment to innovation. What about your customer support, training, and education?
FT: Our commitment to training, education, and customer support is as strong as our commitment to continuously provide users with new software releases, new functionalities, and improved performance as a standard part of their package. We are training more than 1,000 technicians every year through our growing network of locally placed 3Shape experts. This effort ensures optimal support for 3Shape users all over the world. We back this line of support with highly qualified teams of second line 3Shape supporters and with 3Shape Academy webinars, which ensure that our users are equipped to use their system’s full potential. We also invest in extensive and high-quality user documentation, help systems, manuals, and multi-language support with direct access by users through a dedicated 3Shape Download Center. We take a great deal of pride in caring for our partners and our end users. That is our measure of success.
Flemming Thorup is the CEO of 3Shape.