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An Interview with Avi Cohen
Inside Dental Technology (IDT): Looking at the rapid growth of the digital landscape in the dental industry, how do you envision 3D additive technology playing an important role in that development?
Avi Cohen (AC): Dental laboratories are the drivers in the digital revolution in dentistry. They understand the need for merging mass production and individualized customization into an efficient workflow process in order to remain competitive. Collectively, the laboratory industry is pushing and leading the way toward a more streamlined and less labor-intensive production workflow.
We believe that continued advancements in additive technology will provide laboratories with solutions that further streamline manufacturing throughput and offer laboratories new opportunities for business growth. Before Objet entered the dental market with additive technology solutions, we conducted research to better understand what the market needed and then fulfilled that need in terms of equipment and materials. What we found was that the large and mid-sized laboratory operations attempting to make the transformation from analog to digital workflows faced a major stumbling block when it came to producing physical models from digital impression data received from the operatory. What they needed was an open, flexible, and non-disruptive business solution that they could bring in-house to integrate seamlessly with their production processes. We were committed to bringing a technology and business strategy to the market that resolved these issues. Our technology speeds up the production process to help laboratories remain successful. It is a reliable, dependable workhorse, and it reduces the cost per case by using materials that are cost-effective. Lastly, we wanted to ensure that we supported our products as well as continually
develop new equipment and materials for the market.
IDT: Objet has been in the dental market for 3 years. What has surprised you most during that time?
AC: We had expected that digital dentistry would have moved forward faster than it has. This is largely due in part to the resistance on the clinical side to adopt or afford digital intraoral impression technology. I think we are a generation of dentists away from a complete conversion to capturing digital intraoral data in the operatory. The younger generation of dentists is excited by the technology and the benefits it brings not only to the patient but also to the efficiency and precision of the laboratory production processes and the end product.
The second surprise has been a very pleasing one—the validation and rapid adoption of our technology by the laboratory industry. Objet is involved in many other industries, from the automotive and electronic industries to the medical devices sector. After a mere 3 years, dental currently represents 15% of our total company business. That is remarkable growth in a short period of time and is validation that our technology fits the needs of laboratories of all sizes and that our business strategy is on the right track.
IDT: You mentioned that one of Objet’s commitments to the industry is the continual development of new materials and equipment. What new developments are on the horizon?
AC: The biggest challenge and the future success of our company is based on material development. Although we are a company of only 500 employees, nearly half of those employees are researchers committed to formulating new materials. I can’t speak to specific new production materials currently in development, but I can say that in the future I see the need for a biocompatible and more durable, yet esthetic, provisional material that can withstand the rigors of the oral environment for longer periods of time. Because our technology also has the capability of printing materials in the entire gray scale from black to white, perhaps in the future it will be possible to print materials in the different colors of the VITA® shade guide.
We also are continually developing new indications for our 3D printing technology that help dentists save chairtime and provide laboratories with the opportunity to carve out niche revenue streams for their businesses. Currently, besides printing models, we can print implant surgical guides as well as positioning guides for veneer placement that help automate clinical procedures and offer laboratories new services that they can provide their customers.
Going forward, we will be looking to develop a smaller, less expensive version of our technology to fit the needs of the small laboratory business and open the door to digital dentistry for them.
We will continue to work closely with our laboratory customers to ensure their business growth and expand our cooperative agreements with strategic business partners to further solidify our commitment to the dental industry and our leadership role in moving the
digital revolution forward.
Avi Cohen is the head of medical solutions for Objet Geometries.